Turning the tables: Bears bounce defending champion Sharks, 10-4

Central High’s Rashaad Boyce earned his first mound win of the season Tuesday night against host Nature Coast. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
Central High’s Justin Gay was tagged out at third base by Nature Coast’s Brian Erb.                    Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
NCT Jonathan McMath goes yard for his first homer of the seaon in the fifth inning versus Central.  Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO


CHS pitcher Rashaad Boyce

fans season-high 11 NCT

batters, plates four runs



BROOKSVILLE – It seems turn about is only fair play. Just ask anyone associated with Central’s 30th baseball team.

For the last couple seasons, the Bears have been utilized as a punching bag by archrival Nature Coast Technical.

The three-time defending district champion Sharks entered Tuesday’s opening round of the seven-team Class 5A, District 7 Baseball Tournament as overwhelming favorites to cage the Bears.

Since falling to Central on April 14, 2017 in 10 innings, 3-2, the Sharks had reeled off six straight series wins.

During that span, NCT had dominated CHS, outscoring the Ken Austin Parkway crew by a combined 59 runs, 67-8.

But all changed Tuesday at Sharks’ Field, when the sixth-seeded Bears (4-21) snapped a seven-game losing skein upsetting third-seeded NCT (15-10), 10-4.

The playoff win served as the Bears’ first road victory since March 15’s 4-3 nod in New Port Richey over lowly Gulf.

The triumph advanced the Bears into Wednesday’s first of two semifinals at Hudson High.

On Tuesday, fifth-seeded and host Hudson (5-18) fell to Hudson-Fivay, 7-6.

In the other quarterfinal, second-seeded Wesley Chapel-Cypress Creek sent seventh-seeded Gulf packing, 7-0.

Central will tackle Cypress Creek (17-8) at 4 p.m. before Fivay (7-15) battles top-seeded Hernando (18-7) at 7 p.m.

Central dropped both its regular season meetings to the Coyotes this season: 8-5 and 5-4.

But the Bears solved Cypress Creek in 2017: 7-3, 7-6.

In the nightcap, Fivay will attempt to solve Hernando for the first time since 2012 at Emerson Field.

The Falcons have dropped 12 straight meetings to the Purple and Gold.

Several Bear standouts

After being eliminated by NCT in 2017 (7-3) and 2018 (11-1), several Bears stood out Tuesday night.

None larger than 6-foot-4 right-hander Rashaad Boyce.

Rashaad Boyce

The multi-sport Boyce, who entered the game winless, demonstrated some guts.

He twirled 5.2 innings and faced 27 batters unfurling a season-high 108-pitch performance.

Blending his breaking pitches, Boyce, who also stood out on the Bears’ basketball team under Matt Zandecki, fanned a season-high 11 batters. His previous best was 10 punchouts.

That was huge as the Sharks’ Achilles Heel has been not putting the ball in play.

Tuesday night marked the fourth time in five games that the Sharks have lost after striking out 10 or more times.

Boyce overcame four hits, four walks, one hit batter and one wild pitch to climb to 1-8.

Sophomore Ryan Ebberup replaced Boyce and hurled the final 1.1 innings of relief, scattering two hits.

Offensively, Boyce helped himself at the plate going 2-for-3 while plating a season-high four runs.

Trey Adler

In the Bears’ game-high 10-hit attack against four NCT hurlers, juniors Boyce and Locke Weissman and sophomores Ebberup, Trey Adler and Justin Gay each cracked two hits apiece.

Additionally, Weissman drove in four runs while Gay knocked in three.

Adler and Gay each aided the cause with two runs scored.

Defensively, the Sharks played without starting catcher Collin Nelson (injured his wrist over the weekend). Backup receiver Joey Goebel could not slow down a Bears’ running attack that featured five stolen bases in five attempts.

It didn’t help that the Sharks’ quartet of pitchers failed in its attempt to hold down enemy runners by never throwing to first base.

NCT did not help its cause committing a game-high three errors.

The Bears countered by converting 29-of-30 chances.

Scoring recap

Central demonstrated it came to play jumping all over sophomore right-hander Justin Montanez.

Montanez (0-1) is his second start of the season, walked in with three innings under belt.

CHS tallied three runs (all earned) on four first-inning hits off Montanez.

Adler and Boyce opened the game with singles to left.

Gay was hit by a pitch.

With the sacks jammed, Ebberup drove an RBI single plating Adler, 1-0.

Weissman singled to left scoring Boyce, 2-0.

Deven Ayala

Deven Ayala clouted a sacrifice fly to left to plate Gay, 3-0.

NCT responded with two runs in the bottom of the first.

Struggling with his command early, Boyce walked Zeth Rodriguez and plunked Chase Davis.

Brian Erb

With one out, sophomore Brian Erb – one of seven sophomores in the lineup – gapped a two-run double to left-center plating Rodriguez and Davis, 3-2.

Central added two runs off reliever Evan Poole in the second.

With one out, Boyce lashed a double to left.

Gay followed with an RBI single to left scoring Boyce, 4-2.

Ebberup reached on an error prior to Weissman being hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Ayala coaxed a bases-loaded free pass to force home Gay from third, 5-2.

The hosts tallied once in the second.

With one out, Poole reached on a walk.

With two outs, Rodriguez walked proceeding Davis’ RBI single to right, 5-3.

Chase Davis

With runners at the corners, junior Jonathan McMath grounded into a comebacker to end the threat.

The visitors tacked on two runs in the fifth.

Nick Marsicano reached on an error.

Boyce reached on a fielder’s choice and immediately stole second base.

Gay followed with a two-run single up the middle scoring Marsicano and Boyce, 7-3.

Jonathan McMath

Ebberup looped a single down the right field line but Gay was thrown out on the relay at third.

With one out in the bottom of the fifth, McMath swung at Boyce’s first offering and deposited it over the right field fence for his first homerun of the season, 7-4.

The clincher

Erb replaced Anthony Anselmo on the hill to begin the sixth.

After hurling a scoreless sixth, CHS broke the game open with a huge two-out hit.

With one out and facing the top of the Central lineup, Erb walked Adler and Boyce.

A double steal allowed both runners to advance to second and third.

With two outs and first base open, NCT opted to intentionally walk Ebberup to load the sacks.

Despite facing Weissman, who entered the game hitting .158, the first-year starter crossed up the strategy by clearing the bases with a three-run double to left, 10-4.

Though NCT stranded two runners in the sixth and seventh frames, the Sharks finished with six hits.

Erb led the host going 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles.

Post-game discussion

To a man, the Bears’ dugout felt disrespected.

Otherwise, why would the Sharks roll out an unproven commodity in Montanez for a playoff game.

It served as a source of motivation for the Ken Austin Parkway crew.

Locke Weissman

Rewinding his last clutch at-bat, “That was a big hit,” beamed the 16-year-old Weissman. “I was just looking for an outside fastball. I was all over that pitch.”

On the game’s significance, “Oh, it was pretty big,” replied Weissman. “This is what they (NCT) get for disrespecting us .

“… A win like this gives us confidence going into Wednesday. I thought Rah-Rah (Boyce) pitched great.”

Ryan Ebberup

After closing out the game on the mound, “I just wanted to come in focused and pitch with confidence,” explained Ebberup, 16.

“Our mindset coming in was not to get intimidated by those guys. They disrespected us throwing the kid they did.”

On the keys to the upset, “Rashaad was the king of the hill tonight,” quipped Ebberup. “This (win) is a big confidence builder for us.”

Gay, who entered hitting .323, finished 2-for-4.

Justin Gay

“They (NCT) weren’t prepared for Rashaad,” expressed the 16-year-old Gay. “He pitched fantastic.”

On possibly reaching Friday’s title game, “In the semifinals we’ve got to hit the ball the way we did today and play the same way defensively.”

Rashaad Boyce

After 108 pitches, “I felt good,” shared the 16-year-old Boyce. “This win was humungous. They took us lightly that’s why they started that first kid (Montanez). That fired us all up.”

On what set the tone, “That first inning set the tone,” responded Boyce. “The key was keeping the bats going the rest of the way.”

After scoring a career-high four runs and earning his first mound win, “The early run support helped,” noted Boyce. “Biggest thing I take away was beating the defending champions on their home turf. That means a lot. We have to have the same kind of intensity tomorrow.”

Coaches’ corner

Ninth-year CHS skipper Al Sorrentino can‘t turn back the pages on his first losing campaign in six years, but certainly savored Tuesday’s upset.

Al Sorrentino

“We use whatever we can to help motivate our guys,” emphasized Sorrentino, without giving specifics. “We can‘t control who the other team throws against us; we‘ve just got to respond.

“Tonight, we swung the bats well. Got some great situational (two-out) hits and played well defensively.

“Actually, since we made 8-9 errors against Springstead, we’ve played a lot better defensively. The first-inning offense was helpful. Everyone in our dugout knows we’ve been on the verge of this type of performance for a while. This is what happens when you stick together through the tough times. We were capable of this type of game.“

On Boyce, “We followed his lead on the mound. Adler made some great plays at shortstop, too. And I really like how we just put the ball in play and good things happened.”

On facing Cypress Creek on Wednesday, “We played two close games with them. Right now, we’re a young team. We need to continue believing in what we’re teaching these kids. We executed well tonight. We have to do the same tomorrow against Cypress Creek.”

From the home dugout, fifth-year mentor Frank Vitale looked at Tuesday’s results eyeing the bigger picture.

Frank Vitale

“First, Rashaad (Boyce) pitched a really good game and their shortstop (Adler) made three nice plays in the hole.

“I tip my cap to job Al (Sorrentino) has done over there for getting his kids ready to play. We’ve suffered some injuries to our pitching staff. We lost (Drake) Mulyck for the season and Erb’s arm is sore.

“I thought Montanez pitched well last week that’s why we went with him tonight.”

On the keys to the game, Vitale didn’t hesitate.

“It wasn’t the first inning. Those two runs in the fifth and three in the seventh were huge. It changed the game’s complexion,” he said. “Still, were a much younger team than we were last year. At one point, we had seven sophomores on the field. That will only help us to get ready for next year.”

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 vs. Cypress Creek, 4 p.m.

Fivay vs. Hernando, 7 p.m.

Central 10, NCT 4















































CEN – Boyce, Ebberup (6) and Ebberup and Weissman.

NCT – Montanez, Poole (2), Anselmo (5), Erb (6) and Goebel.

W – Boyce (1-8). L – Montanez (0-1).

2B – CEN: Adler, Boyce, Weissman. NCT: Erb (2).

HR – NCT: McMath.

Records – Central (1-0 tourney, 4-21 overall), Nature Coast Technical (0-1 tourney, 15-10 overall),

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