20-year regional drought ends as Bears rally past Sharks, 9-4


Central wins fourth

straight as Boyce goes

six frames, fanning 11



Ninth-year Central High baseball skipper Al Sorrentino is a lonely man these days.

His recent run of good fortune was extended when the Bears rallied Wednesday from a 4-0 deficit after 3½ innings to eliminate Class 5A, District 8 runner-up Port Orange-Atlantic, 9-5.

As he looked around following the Class 5A, Region II quarterfinal, other local regional teams, like Springstead, Land O’ Lakes, and Mitchell were all eliminated.

A week ago, Central stood 3-21.

Prior to facing third-seeded and three-time defending district champion Nature Coast Technical, the Ken Austin Parkway crew had dropped seven in a row and 15 of its last 16 tilts.

That, however, is only a distant memory.

Since then, the Bears (7-21) extended its current win skein to four games in a row.

By overcoming a game-high six errors behind a game-best 10 hits, Central advances to Saturday’s 4 p.m. 5A-II semifinals against perennial power Orlando-Bishop Moore Catholic (20-7) in Orange County.

Orlando-Bishop Moore Hornets

The 5A-8 champion Hornets, state champions in 1967 and 2007, advanced by ousting 5A-7 runner-up Hudson-Fivay (9-17), via the mercy rule across 5½ innings, 10-0.

The Bears’ come=from-behind win was significant.

It snapped CHS’ 20-year regional losing streak snapping six straight quarterfinal losses.

The Bears last regional victory arrived in 1999 under skipper Gary Buel when CHS blanked Ocala-Lake Weir, 6-0.

Ironically, in the semifinals that season, Bishop Moore Catholic sent the Bears packing, 11-2.

The Brooksville nine hasn’t faced Bishop Moore since … until Saturday.

Bear standouts

Central, 2-8 lifetime in regional action, was paced by junior right-hander Rashaad Boyce.

Rashaad Boyce

The 6-foot-4 Boyce hurled six-plus innings, uncoiling 106 pitches before being lifted in the seventh.

Boyce scattered four hits, including a double to catcher Christian Pregent, hit four batters, did not issue a walk and matched his season-high of 11 strikeouts.

After facing 29 batters, Boyce was charged with five runs (one earned) while improving to 2-8 overall.

Sophomore right-hander Ryan Ebberup followed Boyce to the bump and struck out two to close out the scoreless seventh.

Defensively, CHS played fast and loose with the baseball. The Bears converted 29-of-35 chances, committing five of its errors through the first three innings to fall behind, 4-0.

Ebberup, who started the game behind the plate, kept the Bears within striking distance by throwing out two runners attempting to steal bases.

Offensively, a Bears’ team that arrived hitting a county-low .218, cranked out 10 his against four Atlantic hurlers.

Ebberup, who entered the game hitting .339, helped himself finishing 3-for-3.

Another sophomore, Justin Gay, who entered hitting .333, finished 2-for-3.

Justin Gay

Junior Locke Weissman, who arrived hitting .172, went 2-for-2, plus a walk and drove in two runs with a triple.

The Bears’ comeback

Atlantic tallied single runs in the first and second frames and two in the fourth to erect a 4-0 cushion.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Bears countered with four runs to tie matters.

Boyce, who entered as the team’s leading hitter at .356, ignited the uprising with a leadoff single up the middle.

Gay followed with a single to right.

Ebberup poked an RBI single to right plating Boyce, 4-1.

Weissman spanked a two-run triple to straight center field scoring Gay and Ebberup, 4-3.

Jimmy Russell

With one out, senior Jimmy Russell, guided an RBI single between shortstop and third scoring Weissman, 4-all.

The Bears were poised for more until Taylor Mulock grounded into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.

Atlantic regained the lead with a run in the top of the fifth, 5-4.

The Bears quickly countered with five runs on three key hits.

With one out, sophomore Trey Adler and Boyce followed with back-to-back walks.

Gay singled to right to load the bases.

Ryan Ebberup

Ebberup’s seeing-eye single to right plated Adler and Boyce, 6-5 Bears.

Weissman coaxed a walk to load the bases.

Deven Ayala

Junior Deven Ayala, who entered the game hitting .113, sliced a two-single to right plating Gay and Ebberup, 8-5.

With two outs, Sorrentino called for a double steal.

As Ayala was hung up between first and second, Weissman stole home, 9-5.

Coaches’ corner

Sorrentino revealed afterward that the game served as a microcosm of the season.

Al Sorrentino Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

“Four of their five runs were unearned,” pointed out Coach Sorrentino. “It wasn’t that Boyce pitched poorly, we just kicked the ball too many times early in the game. After we rallied back, that’s when we settled down defensively.

“… I can’t explain it. This group had just gotten comfortable (winning three playoff games in succession on the road). Then we play at home and it’s a microcosm of the season. We started off poorly, rallied and finished well.“

According to Sorrentino, Boyce set the tone.

“He’s a tall and imposing fellow out there,” said CHS skipper. “He’s our leader. He started to get down when we made all those early errors, but he was right in the middle of our comeback.

“Give Rashaad credit, Atlantic only hit one ball out of the infield. That one found the fence for a double.”

Asked for his team’s biggest positive, Sorrentino responded, “That we stuck together. I’m happy with the adjustments we made at the plate after the first time through the lineup against their starter. We handled that well.”

Attempting to explain the Bears’ initial regional victory in 20 years, “Baseball is stupid,” quipped Sorrentino. “There are so many things in this sport you can’t explain. You hit the ball right on the screws, but it’s caught. Then you’ll hit a fister and that will score a couple. This game does a great job of teaching young men about life.”

On confronting Bishop Moore, “We’re so young. Most of our guys don’t know anything about them,“ noted Sorrentino. “The coaches know they have quality players. Going forward, Saturday’s game will serve as a measuring stick to see where we’re at and how much more work we’e got to put in to catch them.”

On whether the Bears are playing with house money walking into Orlando, “I don’t know about that,” said Sorrentino. “I do know our guys went to Fivay last Saturday with the intention of winning. The same thing Wednesday against Atlantic. This run isn’t a fluke to our guys. We’re going to Bishop Moore to win.”

2019 “Road to the Show”

Class 5A, District 7 Baseball Tournament

05-07: Quarterfinals

@ Nature Coast Technical

Central 10. NCT 4

@ Hudson

Fivay 7, Hudson 6

Cypress Creek 7, Gulf 0

05-08: Semifinals

@ Hudson

Central 6, Cypress Creek 1

Fivay 5, Hernando 1

05-11: Championship

@ Fivay

Central 7, Fivay 1.

05-15: Class 5A, Region II Quarterfinals

@ Brooksville

Central 9, Port Orange-Atlantic 5

@ Orlando

Bishop Moore Catholic 10, Hudson-Fivay 4 (5.5 Innings)

05-18: Class 5A, Region II Semifinals

@ Orlando

Central vs. Bishop Moore, 4 p.m..

Central 9,

Atlantic 5















































ATL – Asbill, Dare (4), Jones 95), O’Brien (5) and Pregent.

CEN – Boyce, Ebberup (7) and Ebberup, Weissman (7).

W – Boyce (2-8). L – Dare (2-2).

2B – ATL: Pregent.

3B – CEN: Weissman.

Records – Atlantic (0-1 tourney, 11-10 overall), Central (1-0 tourney, 7-21 overall).

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