Rams Win Nail Biter Over Eagles 2-1 to Advance to States
The John Carroll Rams (18-9) eliminated the Saint John Paul II Eagles (21-5) in the 3A Regional Finals after a tense pitching duel on Tuesday Night in Fort Pierce. The teams played tight early but the Rams were able to scratch a run across in the second inning and maintained that lead until the sixth inning when they added another. But the Eagles soared back in the top half of the seventh to cut the lead to one run and made for a nerve wracking finish.
John Carroll Manager Dave Parra was emotionally exhausted after his team recorded the final out with John Paul II had the tying and go ahead runs on the bases.
“Hats off to those guys (St. John Paul). There’s no quit in that team. That is one heck of a program.” said Parra.
The Eagles threw their ace up against the Rams. All District pitcher, Gavin Adams has powered his team through an impressive season and deep playoff run. Once again, he lived up to the accolades.
Adams recorded seven strikeouts allowed only three hits and one earned one to keep the Eagles in the game on a night when they couldn’t get the bats moving. For a stretch in the game, he summoned the most impressive stuff he has displayed all season, notching four straight no-doubt strikeouts with an elite curve ball and untouchable fastball.
The only blemishes on Adams’ night were issuing a costly walk in the second inning that resulted in a run and grooving a fastball for a leadoff triple in the sixth that would prove to be the game winner.
Rams centerfielder Jay Allen made the play of the game, twice. In the fourth inning, Allen snared a searing line drive to shallow center by Bryen Blasioli. Allen made an acrobatic dive to rob the Eagles of a much needed hit. In the sixth inning, Allen smashed the lead off triple that ended up being the winning run.
“The approach was just to be a good leadoff hitter that inning for my team.” Allen said. “I knew we had to get another run. The first pitch I saw was a fastball that I swung right through off balance. I prepared for him to come back with another and he left it on the middle third of the plate and I took it to deep left gap. I thought it was going out when I hit it.”
The wind was blowing directly in from center and was the only reason the ball stayed in the park. Nevertheless, the Rams plated Allen on the next batter when the Eagles infield made a crushing throwing error on a groundball.
But the big story of the night was the Rams ace Braden Calise who silenced the Eagles bats, striking out nine with a blistering two-seam fastball and a filthy curve. Calise held the Eagles to only two hits and an unearned run.
For good measure, Calise also drove in the two Rams runs with an RBI single in the second inning and a ground ball that resulted in a run in the sixth. The senior right hander most impressive feat of the night was stopping the Eagles surge in the seventh after a pair of errors from the Rams infield.
Twin brothers, Gage & Gavin Adams each reached on error with one out in the seventh. Calise was able to bear down for a strike out to put the Rams one out away from advancing. But Eagles junior Kevin Freshcorn deposited a single into centerfield to give his team a chance with two outs and the tying run in scoring position.
Calise kept faith in the defense behind him despite what occurred earlier in the inning and focused on how to pitch the Rams out of the jam and into the State Finals.
“My two-seam was working all night. In that final at bat the wind was blowing in, I was really just trying to get a pop-up and trusted the guys behind me to make plays. I ran one in on his hands and was able to get him to pop out to left. I had faith in my team the whole game.” said Calise, who has committed to the University of Louisville next year.
After securing the final out, the Rams dugout rushed the field in a flurry of sprayed water bottles and rally cries. Coach Parra was thrilled to advance to the Final Four with this group.
“We are excited to represent our school and our region to compete for a state title. There are a lot of worthy programs and coaching staffs across the state that never get to experience a Final Four and we’re just proud to advance. This journey was not easy. This journey was crazy but it makes moving on much sweeter.” said Parra
The scene was more solemn on the other side of the field. John Paul II had an incredible season with a wonderful roster of talent. Eagles Manager Peter Graffeo said heartfelt goodbyes to his seniors and offered advice to the underclassmen returning next year.
“I just told my seniors I loved them and I learned a lot from them. I told the younger guys to learn from these seniors because they were a special, special group.” said Graffeo.
John Carroll will travel to Fort Myers next week to play in the State Finals. The Rams were in the State Finals as recently as 2018 and 2016.