CLEARWATER — Top-seeded Calvary Christian and third-seeded Berkeley Prep left no doubt as to which teams deserve to be in Friday’s Class 4A, District 4 championship.
The Warriors advanced after a 10-0, five-inning win over No. 5 Tampa Catholic in the day’s first game. The Bucs, in a bit of a surprise, jumped on second-seeded Clearwater Central Catholic early and cruised to a 9-0 win.
Berkeley Prep and CCC split two games in the regular season.
“We wanted this game more than anything," Berkeley Prep centerfielder Jakob Hines said. “This was the biggest game of the year. We were ready to go right off the bat."
The Bucs (19-7) could not have started the game much better. They got four straight hits and scored the first run on a wild pitch. Hines had a two-run double as the clean-up hitter.
Davis Childers reached on an infield error that scored another run. It was 4-0 before the first out was made. Roman Samson and Tucker Fine each added RBIs in the first to make it 6-0.
Berkeley Prep starter Ian Brown had a six-run cushion before he even took the mound, which made him grateful.
“Thank you, nothing else you can really say," Brown said. “That almost put the game away right there. As long as I do my job, they just did their job. So we’re good."
Brown did indeed do his job. He gave up a hit in the first inning, but a double play on a line-drive out allowed Brown to face the minimum in the first inning. From there, he allowed only one more hit, to Brad Seal in the fifth inning.
He recorded eight strikeouts, all of which came after the third inning.
“He gets stronger as the game goes on," Hines said. “Almost every single game he pitches, that’s what he does. It’s fun to watch."
The Bucs tacked on a run in the second inning after Cade Kurland reached second base on an infield error, went to third on a passed ball and scored on an RBI flyout to center by Johnathan Bruno.
The final run came in the fourth inning when Kurland scored from third on a passes ball. The Marauders (13-11) made five errors overall, four of which came in the first two innings.
Calvary Christian, which won the 2017 state title and was runnerup last season, looks to be in playoff form this year. The Warriors (25-4) scored in every inning and starter Nolan Hudi allowed only one hit and struck out nine in the mercy-rule win.
Third baseman Tommy White was 2-for-4 and had three RBIs. His two-run single in the fifth ended the game. Christian Cairo was 3-for-3 and scored four runs. Vince Smith was 3-for-3 with an RBI.
“This is exactly what we wanted to do," Smith said. “CC (Cairo) gets us started in the first (with a hit by pitch) and after that it is contagious. This is the kind of team we can be."
The Warriors led 3-0 after two innings. It looked as if they might get shutout in the third. But with two outs Kyle Flynn came through with an RBI single.
Pinch-hitter Bo Planeta followed with a two-run double that made it 6-0 and basically put the game away.
The only question after that was would Hudi give up a hit? Kian Knutson answered that when he singled solidly to left-center to lead off the fourth.
Tampa Catholic (7-15) did not get a runner to second base.
“We practiced hard and played hard,” Warriors coach Greg Olsen said. “This is the game you have to have to move on to the next week. Proud of our guys.”
Friday’s final is at 7 p.m. at CCC. Both teams have advanced to next week’s region semifinals.