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John Carroll Downed By Canterbury In 3A State Semifinal

Jay Allen was 2-for-4 with a run for the Rams.

It is hard to imagine that the Canterbury Cougars have not reached their full potential yet this season. Following a close, 4-3 victory over John Carroll in Wednesday’s Class 3A state semifinal at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Cougars manager Frank Turco admitted that he has yet to see his team play the best baseball that they are capable of. Knocking on the door with a chance to win its third consecutive state championship on Thursday presents the greatest opportunity for the club to do just that.

Facing a young and scrappy John Carroll squad and sophomore ace Nick Gorby, Canterbury managed to put together just enough offense to escape with the victory. Trennon Turco’s RBI ground out in the bottom of the fourth drove in William Shea for the winning run, and the Cougars (26-5) held off one final rally bid in the bottom of the seventh to preserve the win.

“It was a nail-biter once again, and pitching and defense has been our mainstay,” Coach Turco said. “We had a few hiccups here and there, but we did what we needed to when we finally had some small-ball situations. We capitalized on them and had success. I would like to see us play a little better and swing the bats a little better, but we tip our hat to Nick Gorby. He did a great job out there; he is a competitor and he mixes pitches really well. We did just enough to get a ‘W’.”

Gorby’s pitching helped keep the Rams (19-8) alive in the action all the way to the conclusion. The left-hander went the distance on the mound, allowing one earned run on six hits and a walk. He struck out seven and needed just 81 pitches to go the full six innings. Despite the end result, the young hurler was overwhelmed with pride for how he and his teammates played on Wednesday and every day leading up to it.

“We played an outstanding game. I’m proud of our teammates, our coaching staff and I am just proud of everybody for what they did and that we made it this far,” Gorby said. “At the beginning, we didn’t think we were going to make it this far. But we did and we were still writing the story. The emotions going on was a lot, and from the beginning of the game everybody was nervous. I just told the guys to play it like it was our last, focus and do what we do best. Everybody dialed in after that and we controlled our emotions.”

John Carroll’s Nick Gorby pitched a complete-game while only allowing one earned run to keep the Rams alive to the finish.

Canterbury took control with three runs in the second inning. Levi Shuck reached on an infield single and Cooper Weiss walked to quickly give the Cougars some base runners. A throwing error advanced the runners, and Shuck put his club on the scoreboard off a wild pitch. Julian Meyers then reached on an error that plated Weiss, Will Cialone singled to center and Trennon Turco drove in another run with a fielder’s choice RBI ground out.

The Rams answered back to get on the board in the third. Jay Allen singled to left, advanced on a passed ball and came around third to score thanks to an RBI single off the bat of Brandon O’Brien.

“We combined our emotions together as a team, instead of separate,” Gorby said. “We played as a team and not like individuals. We had each other’s back and we played like we were brothers.”

John Carroll threatened to break things open by loading up the bases with no outs in the top of the sixth inning. O’Brien singled to the shortstop, Kelsey Ward followed with a base knock to left field and Andrew Bourque walked to fill up the bags. This prompted a quick visit from Cougars Assistant Coach Willie Eyre to help reign things back in.

Vanderhof responded by striking out the next two hitters, and then induced an infield grounder to first to quell the threat unscathed.

Andrew Bourque walked and was hit by a pitch to reach base twice for John Carroll.

John Carroll made one final strong push with their last swings in the bottom of the seventh. Trailing by three runs going into the frame, the Rams got it going to keep their season alive. Justin O’Leary was hit by a pitch and Mike La Rocca followed by lining a double into left field. O’Brien then came through with a clutch single to right field that drove in both base runners.

None of the Rams wanted their season to end, and the effort they put to the end was an example of the heart and grit they all exhibit. Rams manager Dan Taylor spoke afterwards about how much love he has for this team this season, and how proud he is of all they accomplished.

“We were playing an experienced team; they were lose, they have been there and they are local,” Taylor said. “It was a great crowd with a lot of emotion, and where we are at as a program we really have a lot of young pieces. I think it was emotional and it comes from a great place, because these guys love one another. They’ve played together all year and they didn’t want it to end. They wanted that last piece with that ring.”

Cougars reliever Bryce Einstein then induced a pair of flyouts that ended the threat and preserved the victory. Although the title dream ended short of that goal for the Rams, it was another proud moment for a program that has enjoyed tremendous success in previous seasons. Now this current group has etched their name into the program’s history, and many of those guys have years remaining in their high school careers to keep chasing after John Carroll’s first state title.

“When we started working even way back in September with this group, we realized that this is a fun group,” Taylor said. “They learn all the little things that we learn at practice. Sometimes it gets monotonous, but they have been going since day one. They listed and they trust us as coaches, so that is a big piece right off the bat. I think they truly believe in what we are doing and what we teaching them.”

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