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Heritage-Delray’s State Run Thwarted By Calvary Clearwater

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Talent and teamwork helped a very young American Heritage-Delray squad evolve into a legitimate contender this season, leading the Stallions back to the state tournament for the fourth time in program history. Despite a roster that carries just three seniors and starts mostly underclassmen, Heritage-Delray battled through one of the toughest districts in Palm Beach County and then played its best baseball in the regional playoffs to take them a step closer towards the goal of winning a state championship.

Unfortunately, Heritage-Delray will have to wait at least one more year for state glory, after Calvary Christian Clearwater prevailed with a 7-1 victory in Friday night’s 4A state semifinal at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers. But for this young and talented group, this may only be the beginning of much success to come in the seasons directly ahead of them.

“I’m proud of the boys, the future looks bright. I love our pitching staff, love our defense. We’re excited,” Stallions manager Carm Mazza said. “They worked hard to get here and they deserved every bit of it. We told them they have to keep working hard because it’s never going to be an easy road to get here.”

Facing a tough Stallions team that is deep in pitching and known for stout defense, the undefeated Warriors thrived just as they have all season. They scored all the runs they ultimately needed in the top of the first inning, the pitching staff held the rope in allowing only two hits all night and the defense committed just one error.

That love is understandable for any passionate baseball fan, as this Calvary teams plays the caliber of baseball that is enjoyable to watch. With a strong amount of cheering and support coming from their fans in attendance, the Warriors accomplished what few teams manage in winning at the state tournament even despite being at the big dance for the very first time.

Calvary got going right out of the gate, as Graham Hoffman singled, Matheu Nelson walked and Marco Benedettini reached with a bunt single that loaded up the bags. Cavan Ingram then delivered a hard liner through the left side of the defense to allow two runners to cross the plate for the 2-0 lead.

The Stallions (22-8) answered back in the third to cut that deficit in half. Bailey Uderitz walked but was gunned down at home plate by left fielder Ritchie Mize as he tried to score on a double to left off the bat of Chris Ferara. It was a tough call for the Stallions to take, which put a damper in their comeback attempt. But luckily Troy Hamilton immediately swung the momentum towards American Heritage when he jumped on an 0-1 offering and laced a shot deep into the right-center field gap for an RBI triple that sent Ferara in and made it a 2-1 ball game.

Calvary starter Nolan Hudi held the rope the rest of the way to keep the Stallions off the scoreboard during the rest of his six innings of work. The sophomore left-hander allowed just two hits and five walks on 85 total pitches. Relying on a strong mix of fastballs and changeups, Hudi recorded four strikeouts to improve his season record to 10-0.

The Warriors answered right back in the top of the fourth to extend their lead, as Eric Kennedy and Hoffman had back-to-back RBI singles. Justin Bench then laced a stand-up triple and scored on an error in the sixth, and Hoffman also crossed the plate off an error during the frame. Ingram then added another RBI single to close out the scoring.

Sophomore Braden Halladay needed just 13 pitches to record the final three outs in the seventh.

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