FORT MYERS — If Calvary Christian was going to win its second Class 4A state championship in three years it was going to need a big outing from No. 2 starter Josh Emerson and some help from the bottom of the lineup.
Getting a quality start from Emerson was in doubt. The senior had the flu and didn’t feel ready to get back on a baseball field until Thursday. But Emerson and the lower third of the lineup came through in the clutch.
Emerson, a senior, allowed three hits and gave up one run in 6 ⅔ innings pitched. Calvary Christian’s bottom three hitters came through to give the Crusaders a 2-1 win over Delray Beach American Heritage on Saturday night at Hammond Stadium.
“I really wasn’t feeling well all week,” Emerson said. “I knew I had to fight all game. My velocity wasn’t there, so I just had to throw strikes and let my defense protect me like they always do. My last time out here so I had to give it all I have.”
The game was tied 1-1 heading to the bottom of the seventh inning. No. 7 hitter Peter Stavrakos led off and got hit by a pitch from relief pitcher Ryan Braun. He moved to second when Braun’s pickoff attempt sailed wide.
Kyle Flynn then bunted in front of the mound. The attempt to get Stavrakos at third was too late
That brought up No. 9 hitter Charles Stevens. With two strikes, he hit a groundball to shortstop.
Stavrakos broke for home and the throw to the plate was low. He slid in safely to clinch the title.
“It was kind of a dribbler so I went with my instincts and went,” Stavrakos said. “After crossing the plate, it was just amazing. It was a team effort.”
Stevens had only one goal in his at-bat: Put the ball in play.
“Once I got to two strikes I knew I had to fight,” Stevens said. “I had to do it for my whole team. He gave me a pitch I could do something with. I didn’t think it would be enough, but thanks to God it was enough.”
This was the third straight year that Calvary Christian has played in the championship game. In the past three years, Calvary Christian has gone 76-5. The Warriors were 26-4 this season. The Stallions (29-3) lost all three games this season by one run.
“That last sequence was a great summary of our team,” Warriors coach Greg Olsen said. “(Stevens) is facing a kid throwing as hard as anyone in high school. But he’s in there fighting as hard as he could to put the ball in play. From there we are state champs.”
The Warriors scored their only other run in the first inning. With one out in the first, Sam Gordon laid down a bunt between third base and the pitcher’s mound. Pitcher Carmine Lane’s throw to first was a bit wide, which forced first baseman Chris Ferrera to lunge into Gordon.
The two collided and the ball went into foul territory. Gordon was able to get to second and Ferrera stayed on the turf. Ferrera was unable to return.
When play resumed, Tommy White took the first pitch to rightfield for a double that scored Gordon.
American Heritage got the run back in the fourth inning. Bailey Uderitz led off with a walk and Lane followed with a double to put runners on second and third. One out later, Steven Andrews grounded out to third, but Uderitz was able to score to make it 1-1.
Emerson got a groundout to strand a runner at third.
It looked like Calvary Christian had something going in the fifth inning. The Warriors put the first two batters on, but three straight outs ended that rally.
They were able to capitalize when it counted in the seventh inning.
“This is a great group and I can’t imagine doing this with any other group,” Emerson said. “I just had to forget about how I felt and suck it up.”
State baseball semifinals
At Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers. Admission is $9 per day (advance) or $12 (day of); parking is $10.
Class 8A: Strawberry Crest vs. Lakeland George Jenkins, 4 p.m. Wednesday
Class 8A: Plant City vs. McArthur, 7 p.m. Wednesday
Class 6A: Lynn Haven Mosley vs. Dunedin, 10 a.m. Friday
Class 6A: Jesuit vs. Miami Springs, 1 p.m. Friday
Class 7A: Doral Academy vs. Leto, 7 p.m. Friday