Bears complete ‘miracle run’, clipping Falcons, 7-1

MEET THE CHAMPS! – Central High claimed its fourth district championship in 30 seasons Saturday – all after a 3-2 21 start – turning back host Hudson-Fivay in the 5A-7 finale, 7-1. Photo by TONY CASTRO
Central High’s, Taylor Mulock recorded the last three outs on the mound to preserve Justin Gay’s first career win, 7-1. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

BASEBALL

Central raps game-high

13 safeties as Boyce,

Russell collect 3 knocks

By TONY CASTRO

HernandoSport.com

HUDSON – What a difference a week can make at the prep level. Just ask anyone at Central High.

Prior to Tuesday’s opening round of the Class 5A, District 7 Baseball Tournament, the Bears were attempting to save face.

The Ken Austin Parkway crew arrived at archrival Nature Coast Technical riding a seven-game losing skid.

Moreover, the Bears had dropped 15 of its last 16 tilts. They hadn’t won a road game since March 15 in New Port Richey,

But after toppling three-time defending champion NCT, 9-4, CHS was just getting started.

On Wednesday, ninth-year skipper Al Sorrentino’s troops found discovered in the bottle and brushed aside No. 2 seed Wesley Chapel-Cypress Creek, 6-1.

After getting rained out Friday, the championship game wasn’t even at a neutral site; CHS played Saturday at Fivay.

Utilizing the same blue print it had over the first two district games, the Bears plated four key first-innings runs of JJ Erazo.

In all, the Brooksville nine collected a game-high 13 hits and rode sophomore right-hander Justin Gay’s fine mound work for six innings to clip fourth-seeded Fivay, 7-1.

The stunning performance elevated Central to 6-21 overall.

The district title served as Hernando County’s 30th lifetime and Central’s fourth across 30 seasons.

It was Central’s first district title since 2015.

With the triumph, the Bears will host the Class 5A, Region II quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Wednesday against 5A-8 runner-up Port Orange-Atlantic (12-9).

With the loss, the Falcons (9-16) will hike to Orange County to face perennial power Orlando-Bishop Moore Catholic (19-7).

Bevy of standouts

For the Navy and Silver=clad Bears, several players stood out Saturday in West Pasco County.

On the bump, the 6-foot-2 Gay set the tone.

Gay, who walked in with a modest 20.1 innings pitched, yielding 20 walks against 16 strikeouts, couldn’t get the ball down early.

He settled in after the first inning and hurled a season-best six innings uncoiling 89 pitches.

The off=speed specialist was effective issuing zero walks, while fanning five.

When Gay ran out of gas after six innings, Coach Sorrentino inserted reliever Locke Weissman.

But similar to Gay, he too struggled with his early command.

After allowing a leadoff single and plunking the next batter, Sorrentino had seen enough.

With a 6-run cushion, Sorrentino was taking no chances that this game would get out of hand- like so many others before.

Taylor Mulock

Taylor Mulock, who began the week with the most pitching appearances in the county (13), eventually extricated himself from a bases loaded jam to close the books.

Defensively, the Bears backed its pitchers converting 26-of-28 chances

Right fielder Deven Ayala snared a liner with one-out in the fifth inning and fired a seed back to first base to double up Fivay’s Eric Mettler for the game’s lone double play.

The Falcons hurt themselves with poor base running, as three other runners were thrown out.

At the plate, a Central squad that began the week with a county-low .207 team batting average, swatted 13 hits.

Senior Jimmy Russell, who began the week hitting .140, finished 3-for-4, highlighted by a pair of doubles.

Junior Rashaad Boyce, who began the week hitting .338, also finished 3-for-4.

Gay, Trey Adler and Ryan Ebberup, all sophomores, chipped in two hits apiece.

Recapping the scoring

For a third straight game, Central exploded out of the gates with four first-inning runs off Erazo.

With one out, Boyce legged out a double to right-center.

Gay, who began the week hitting .323, rammed an RBI single plating Boyce, 1-0.

Courtesy runner Mike Tietz was inserted for Gay.

Ebberup followed with a single to left.

Weissman dropped down a gorgeous sacrifice bunt to advance both runners.

Ayala coaxed a walk to load the bases.

Russell, who started the week with one run batted in on the season, crushed a 1-0 offering to left field clearing the bases, 4-0 Bears.

Fivay immediately answered in the bottom of the first, but basically ran themselves out of a potential big inning.

Erik Scott opened the game with a looping single to right.

He immediately stole second base.

Michael Finn cracked an RBI single to right, 4-1.

Erazo legged out a bunt single.

Avery Schaub singled to left but Finn got caught in a pickle between second and third and was tagged out.

Erazo attempted to steal second, but was cut down on perfect peg from catcher Ebberup before Joseph Wallen grounded out.

Central added a run in the second.

Nick Marsicano, who began the week at a .061 hitting clip, coaxed a key leadoff walk.

Adler singled to right. He quickly stole second base.

Nick Marsicano

With one out, Gay lifted a sacrifice fly to right plating Marsicano, 5-1.

Fivay appeared to jump start its offense in the second.

Kyle O’Keefe led off with a single.

Mettler lined a shot up the middle, but O’Keefe was thrown out by the centerfielder Boyce at second.

The Bears extended the cushion with a run in the fourth.

Marsicano again led off with a walk against the Falcons’ second hurler, William Morrison.

Adler lined the ball up the middle, but Marsicano was thrown out by the centerfielder on a fielder’s choice at second.

Boyce singled to right before Gay walked to load the sacks.

Trey Adler

Ebberup grounded to third base, but the third sacker opted not to throw home for the force out permitting Adler to race home, 6-1.

The visitors tacked on another run in the sixth.

Adler and Boyce led off the frame with back-to-back singles.

The Bears then executed a double steal.

Though Gay grounded into a fielder’s choice, Adler scored, 7-1.

The Falcons finished with eight hits though none of the hosts collected more than one hit.

Scott, the Falcons’ starting shortstop, was injured in the third inning. He fouled off a pitch that caromed off his nose. He was helped off the field, but did not return.

Post-game analysis

Ryan Ebberup

Ebberup, who etched two multi-hit games during the entire regular season, enjoyed his second multi-hit game this week finishing 2-for-4.

“The first inning was huge,” expressed the 16-year-old Ebberup. “That was a big confidence booster. Those early runs gave us some room.”

On his mindset, “We all came in just wanting to play hard.”

On the staff’s mound efforts, “Hillbilly (nickname for Gay) just went off,” smiled Ebberup. “I thought Fivay was unfocused. For us, this was the biggest game of the year.”

Prior to this week, Russell had accumulated one run batted on March 19 against Lecanto. He was 1-for-10 prior to the start of district play.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” asserted the Bears’ lone senior. “We all had the same mindset, whatever happened in the past, would remain in the past.”

Jimmy Russell

According to Russell, the key to game hinged on early run support.

“The first inning was big,” noted the 18-year-old. “It set the game’s tone. I thought Justin (Gay) threw really well and so did Taylor (Mulock).”

On what he’ll remember most about this current run, “We’re all gonna remember how this season ended. It’s just amazing. I still can’t believe this is happening.”

Rashaad Boyce

“We went into this tournament wanting to shock the world,” shared the 18-year-old Boyce. “We didn’t care what we did before this tournament.”

On the keys to the game, “Oh, it was the first inning jumping on them so quickly put them on their heels. And I thought Mr. Gay pitched a heck of a game for us.

“…Right now, it doesn‘t get better than this.”

Justin Gay

Describing the situation after throwing 89 pitches, “I was painting all day,” quipped the 16-year-old Gay. “My defense gave me confidence behind me.”

On the keys to the successful run, “We focused really well and stuck through the bad times to get here,” noted Gay.

On playing in the regionals on Wednesday, “Going forward our defense has to continue to make plays.”

Coaches’ corner

After getting drenched in Gatorade, the veteran Sorrentino explained afterward, “Years from now when these kids get together, none of them will remember what happened before this week. But everyone of them, I guarantee you, will recall how we came back and won this tournament.”

Al Sorrentino

“The first inning again was the key,” shared Sorrentino. “I was a little concerned when Adler made the first out. He’s been setting the tone. But Rashaad got on and once he scored, we kicked it into gear.”

Heaping praise on Gay, “Justin pitched a great game. His pitches were up (in the zone) early before he settled down. Look, I expected him to go four. He superseded my expectations by going six strong innings.”

On what Sorrentino took away from the experience, “Anyone outside of our dugout would be surprised, but not me. I knew this could happen. Credit belongs to the kids for sticking it out through the tough times.”

2019 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

05-10: Championship

@ Hudson

Central vs. Fivay, Rained out

05-11: Championship

@ Fivay

Central 7, Fivay 1.

05-15: Class 5A, Region II Quarterfinals

@ Brooksville

Port Orange-Atlantic at Central, 7 p.m.

@ Orlando

Hudson-Fivay vs. Bishop Moore Catholic, 7 p.m.

Central 7,

Fivay 1

 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

 

5

 

6

 

7

 

R

 

H

 

ER

 

LOB

CEN

4

1

0

1

0

1

0

7

13

2

8

FIV

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

8

0

6

CEN – Gay,Weissman (7), Mulock and Ebberup..

FIV – Erazo, Morrison (3), Dubiel (6) and Wallen.

W – Gay (1-1). L – Erazo (0-1).

2B – CEN: Russell (2), Boyce.

Records – Central (3-0 tourney, 6-21 overall), Fivay (1-1 tourney, 9-16 overall),

All-Time Hernando County Baseball

Group/District Championships (30)

Compiled by TONY CASTRO

Hernando High (14)

Hernando head Coach Tim Sims congratulates ,9, Trevor Vendrone. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
 

YEAR

 

DIST

 

W-L

 

HEAD COACH

1967

B-4

19-2

Varn, Tom

1977

3A-10

16-18

Chatman, Ernie

1979

3A-10

23-10

Chatman, Ernie

1985

3A-7

28-10

Caldwell, J.B.

1986

3A-7

19-12

Caldwell, J.B.

1993

3A-9

30-5

Chatman, Ernie

1994

4A-7

23-8

Sims, Tim

1995

4A-7

25-7

Sims, Tim

2000

3A-8

20-13

Sims, Tim

2004

3A-6

15-15

Sims, Tim

2010

4A-8

21-10

Sims, Tim

2011

4A-8

26-6

Sims, Tim

2013

5A-7

24-6

Sims, Tim

2014

5A-7

23-5

Sims, Tim

F.W. Springstead High (6)

Springstead Head Coach Shawn Laferty, left, and Central High Head Coach Al Sorrentino share a greeting. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
 

YEAR

 

DIST

 

W-L

 

HEAD COACH

1996

5A-7

23-8

Zefiretto, Tony

2011

5A-7

17-11

Vitale, Frank

2013

6A-6

18-9

Diven, Jim

2016

6A-6

20-7

Laferty, Shawn

2017

6A-6

24-4

Laferty, Shawn

2017

6A-6

22-4

Laferty, Shawn

Central High (4)

Central Head Coach Al Sorrentino.                                                          Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
 

YEAR

 

DIST

 

W-L

 

HEAD COACH

1999

4A-8

21-12

Buel, Gary

2002

4A-7

15-13

Buel, Gary

2015

5A-7

18-11

Sorrentino, Al

2019

5A-7

6-21

Sorrentino, Al

Hernando Christian Academy (3)

Scott Boer
 

YEAR

 

DIST

 

W-L

 

HEAD COACH

2005

1A-5

13-11

Ellison, Mike

2008

1A-6

15-9

Boer, Scott

2009

1A-6

20-7

Boer, Scott

Nature Coast Technical (3)

Frank Vitale                                                                                             Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
 

YEAR

 

DIST

 

W-L

 

HEAD COACH

2016

5A-7

20-5

Vitale, Frank

2017

5A-7

19-10

Vitale, Frank

2018

5A-7

23-4+

Vitale, Frank

* Denotes Final Four

 

 

 

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