CLEARWATER ― It has been nearly two years since former major-league pitcher and Calvary Christian assistant coach Roy Halladay died in a plane crash. But his presence was felt at Tuesday night’s Class 4A region semifinal.
On what would have been his 42nd birthday, the Warriors hung his jersey in the dugout for the first time this season. Ace pitcher Nolan Hudi, who started his last game on the home field, channeled Halladay before and during the game.
And Halladay’s son, Braden, pitched a perfect seventh inning to close out an 8-0 win over Winter Park Trinity Prep. The Warriors will play the winner of the Berkeley Prep vs. Orlando First Academy game on Friday. That game was delayed until Wednesday.
“Our pitching coach, Mike White, had duties at his school before the game so he couldn’t warm me up," Hudi said. “So I was wondering who was going to warm me up. I opened up my phone and I saw that it was Roy’s birthday today. I thought, ‘Wow. He’s going to warm me up.’ I haven’t had him as my pitching coach in a year and a half. It’s time to have him on my last start here ever. No better way to go out than with Roy. It was all for him."
Hudi, who won his 10th game of the season, went out in style. He threw six shutout innings and struck out 11 batters. He allowed only two hits. Trinity Prep (16-7) got a runner to second base once, and that was in the first inning.
Not only did Hudi pitch well, but he also got two hits and had four RBIs.
“You’ve got help out yourself when you can," Hudi said.
Calvary Christian (23-4) broke the game open in the third inning, and it all happened with two outs. Sam Gordon got it started with a bunt base hit, the Warriors’ first of the game.
A stolen base and a wild pitch put Gordon on third. Tommy White then singled to right with two strikes for the first run.
Vince Smith singled to put runners on the corners. Pierce Chambers singled in White. Hudi singled in two more runs to make it 4-0. That’s all Hudi needed.
“If all I have to do is battle until the third inning, I’m a pretty lucky pitcher," Hudi said.
In the fourth, the Warriors tacked on two more. Christian Cairo doubled home a run and Gordon scored Cairo on a sacrifice bunt.
Hudi drove in two more in the fifth when he tripled to left-center.
In the sixth, White hit a long flyball to centerfield with a runner on first. The ball hit off the top of the fence and stayed in play for a double. If the ball cleared the fence the game would’ve been over due to the mercy rule.
Instead, Braden Halladay was able to enter the game in the seventh and close it out. He said he thought about his father all day, a day that started far from the baseball field.
“I got baptized this morning, too," said Halladay, who has a ‘5-14-77’ tattoo on his left forearm. “Felt like a good day to do it."