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PORT ST. LUCIE — Ten days had passed since Canterbury clinched the first state tournament appearance in school history. And the Crusaders were admittedly stir crazy, doing their best to keep practices fresh.
“The pros play 162 games in about 175 days for a reason,” Canterbury coach Dave Smith said.
When the Crusaders did finally take the field at Digital Domain Park for their Class 2A semifinal, four errors and Miami commit Danny Garcia’s curveball kept them out of synch, as Miami Westwood Christian won 4-1 to end the most successful season in Canterbury’s history.
The Crusaders (18-12), who start seven seniors and overcame a seven-game midseason skid, fell behind early when Westwood Christian put its leadoff man on as a result of a two-base fielding error by DaSean Thomas. Two batters later, Anthony Penas gave the
Warriors a 1-0 lead with a single to left. In the bottom of the first, though, the Crusaders took advantage of Westwood Christian’s lone fielding error to score Jake Holsinger.
On the mound, Holsinger threw a complete game, giving up only one earned run. But another defensive lapse — and a decision by the Tampa-based umpiring crew to overturn a call — gave Westwood Christian (19-5) the go-ahead run in the third.
With the bases loaded and one out, the Warriors’ Alexander Hernandez hit a ground ball to third. Steven Valentine tagged out the runner coming at him from second, then threw home. Catcher Dalton Hughes dropped the ball, but the plate umpire initially ruled the runner out, ending the inning with the score still tied.
Both teams left the field as Westwood Christian coach Luis Padron went to appeal. After a conference between the three umpires, the call was reversed, the run scored, and both teams came back on the field.
“All I said was, ‘The ball was dropped, all I’m asking is, please, I’ll leave you alone if you ask for help,’ ” Padron said of his appeal to the home-plate umpire. “I’m a fiery guy, but ask for help, and I’m okay.”
“I hate to say it, but they got the call right,” Smith said. “That’s a big turning point in the ball game. What we should have done is step on third and throw the ball to first base, but we went to the plate. That was big, big momentum.”
Meanwhile, Garcia was able to effectively mix his upper-80s fastball with his curveball to limit Canterbury to just three hits. Too often the Crusaders took pitches early, digging themselves into 0-1 and 0-2 holes.
“As coaches, you want to see guys swing early in the count, swing at that fastball,” Smith said. “Because once he gets you down, one strike, two strikes, he’s awfully tough. You’ve got to swing early, you’ve got to get a good pitch to hit.”
State baseball semifinals
Where: Digital Domain Park, Port St. Lucie
Admission: $9 per session; parking is $7
TV: Finals on BHSN
On the web: Follow @LauraHomeTeam and @RodneyHomeTeam on Twitter for live updates.
Class 3A: Tampa Prep vs. Jacksonville Providence, 10 Wednesday
Class 3A: Delray Beach American Heritage vs. St. Petersburg Catholic, 4 Wednesday