Calvary Christian was up 1-0 through four innings of Saturday’s Class 3A state title game and the Warriors’ starting pitcher, Landen Maroudis, was mowing down North Broward Prep hitters right and left.
Then the skies rumbled and lightning struck.
Then more lightning followed, ultimately delaying the game two hours, which meant Maroudis, a North Carolina State commit, was done for the day.
“That was way too long a wait for his arm and there was no way we were going to risk (any possible arm injuries),” Calvary Christian coach Greg Olsen said. “We have total confidence in our other pitchers.”
And hitters, and fielders and, in general, overall experience.
After working through one of the most challenging schedules of any team in the country, Olsen believed his team was ready for basically anything. He said he believed they would somehow make the big plays in the big moments and collect the big hits when needed. Lightning delay? No worries.
Olsen, a veteran coach of 18 high school baseball seasons, was never more correct.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, with the score tied 2-all, North Broward, the two-time defending state champion, had the bases loaded with one out. The hitter ripped a shot down the third-base line. Calvary Christian third baseman Thad Brooks snagged the ball, stepped on the third base bag and gunned to first.
Double play. Rally snuffed.
“If that ball is a few feet either side of Brooks it’s a double and North Broward (27-5) goes ahead and has a rally going,” Olsen said. “It just so happened that the ball was hit right at one of our players. Then we made the play.”
Biggest hit? That came a few minutes later when Maroudis smashed a solo homer. In the span of a few minutes, the Warriors (28-4 and ranked No. 5 overall in the state) drastically tilted the momentum, which they rode the rest of the way to a 9-3 victory.
For Calvary, it was a particularly satisfying state title (the Warriors also won in 2017 and 2019) after coming up short last year in the region final with one of the most talented teams in the country.
This year’s victory also gives Calvary the distinction of being only one of two Pinellas County schools with three or more state baseball titles, one behind Clearwater Central Catholic.
Calvary heroes in 2023? Besides Maroudis, there was outfielder Blake Opie, who in the final went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored, and designated hitter Liam Peterson, who went 2-for-3 in the final with an RBI and two runs scored.
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There also was the stable of pitchers, including Hunter Dietz (committed to Arkansas), Peterson (Florida) and Justin Mayes (Notre Dame), who in Friday’s state semifinal combined to help the Warriors win a wild 5-4 game over Jacksonville Providence in 10 innings.
In the championship game, Grayson Gibson stepped in to throw the final 2 2/3 innings to earn the victory.
Underneath it all was yet another cool subplot. In 1995, Maroudis’s father, Pete Maroudis, started the state final for Osceola, the only championship game appearance for the school. Dad, however, didn’t get the victory, losing 6-4 to Key West.
“But how cool is it that Landen was able to help get the state title victory all these years later?” Olsen said. “I mean what were the odds of the son getting a chance in a state final as well? That was awesome to watch.”