Westminster Walk-Off Spoils Strong Start From Heritage’s Lucia
The Westminster Academy Lions (3-5) and American Heritage Delray Stallions (5-2) seemed destined to battle into extra innings on Thursday night, but Lions sophomore left fielder Calvin Martin called game in the bottom of the seventh and delivered a walk-off RBI single into right field to seal the deal in regulation, 3-2.
Martin said he knew instantly that the ball was going to get through into right field, and his only real concern was avoiding the ice bath that was coming for him after he rounded first. After some scrambling, Martin allowed his teammates to dumb the cooler on him and dog pile on top in celebration.
For Martin, this was just hit No. 4 on the season, but it came at a crucial moment and after some mistakes from the first-year varsity player. In his first at-bat of the night, Martin failed to lay down a sacrifice bunt that would have put a runner into scoring position with just one out.
“To be honest, I was angry,” Martin said. “I fumbled on my first two at-bats. I got hittable pitches and just missed them. So, this at-bat I was saying in my head ‘I can’t miss that pitch.’ Then, I got a fastball that was pretty much middle-middle.”
The Lions struggled to score all day, plating just two runs in the fourth on a two-run home run by senior designated hitter Landon Petrisko. Westminster manager Ernie Gonzalez said he had complete faith that his team would get the job after taking a 2-2 tie into the seventh.
“I’m always confident in my team,” Gonzalez said. “I believe in them. They wouldn’t be on the field with us at WA if I didn’t believe in them. Each and every one of them. Calvin Martin, our nine-hole hitter, he’s been through so much over the past year and a half with the passing of his mom and baby sister, so it’s an awesome story for him to come up with the game-winner.
It’s unsurprising to learn that this is the top moment of Martin’s high school career so far, but both he and his coach are expecting even better things in the future.
“He’s a young scrappy player from the Bahamas,” Gonzalez said of Martin. “He came here and started at WA in seventh grade and he’s the epitome of hard work. He comes here every day with his dad, who is a great assistant coach who helps out the whole program, and he just works hard. He’s here on the field. He’s a field rat, and he might be our best shortstop, our best center fielder and he does whatever the team needs. He’s by far what our school, our program and our culture are all about.”
Of course, the Lions don’t make it to the seventh inning with a tie game on the board if not for the efforts of junior right-hander Colin Cartagena. The Westminster starter went the distance and pitched a complete game for the second outing in a row — Cartagena threw a seven-inning one-hitter and struck out 10 against Florida Christian a week ago. Heritage Delray only struck out five times on Thursday and scored two runs on four hits, but Cartagena was still dominant for most of the night.
“Cartagena is the definition of a pitcher,” Gonzalez said. “He’s a bulldog. All the guys nowadays with all the velo craze and throwing hard in the upper 80s and 90s trying to get to Division I schools, but he just knows how to pitch. He got rattled there a little bit in the first inning. They got three hits off him and he gave up the home run, but he settled back in. He’s what you’d call a pitcher.”
Being the ace of this team is something Cartagena cherishes. He relishes the opportunity to pitch the big games for the Lions and appreciates his manager’s trust to hand over the rock and let him run with it. When it comes to the back-to-back complete games, Cartagena says he doesn’t start games expecting to finish them, per se. He attacks each batter one by one and goes as long as the plan allows.
“Strikes, baby,” Cartagena said of his plan coming into the game. “You can’t do much more than that. They’re going to want to swing at those strikes, and I’m going to get weak contact with every single off-speed, fastball, whatever it is.”
The Stallions did touch up Cartagena for a few runs throughout the game, though. Northwestern commit Sean Collins drove in a run with a single in the first, and Justin Aron hit a clutch solo home run to lead off the top of the fifth. Aron’s homer tied the game up just minutes after the Lions had taken the lead, and it kept the momentum of the game even heading into the final innings.
Heritage’s starter, senior left-hander Noah Lucia, matched Cartagena until he was pulled in the sixth with two outs. Petrisko was back up to bat and had delivered the two-run home run just two innings prior. Senior right-hander Nate Karzmer came in and got Petrisko to ground out, but he’d ultimately take the loss after giving up the walk-off in the seventh.
“Coach talked to me in the bottom of the fifth once I got out of the inning,” Lucia said. “We talked about getting that curveball in and I just couldn’t get the location on that in the sixth. For the future, I think I just need to work on that and I’ll be good.
Lucia finished the night giving up just two earned runs on six hits and no walks over five and 2/3 innings pitched. He also struck out seven.
Heritage manager Carm Mazza tipped his hat to both starters. The Stallions knew coming into the game that Cartagena was going to be a tough out, but Lucia gave the team a chance to compete. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get the timely run across the plate when they needed it.
“We pitched well,” Mazza said. “Noah gave us a great effort. We got out of a little trouble in the sixth, but we didn’t execute and get something on in the seventh.”
It’s only the second loss of the year for Heritage, so spirits are still high in Delray. Learning from the mistakes made in what few losses the Stallions do see will be key for a successful run in the playoffs when the time comes.
“We just have to make pitches and play the games,” he said. “It’s a tough, tough schedule and we’ve got to do everything right. Tonight, we made a couple of mistakes and it cost us.”
For Westminster, this victory could not have come at a better time. Sitting at 2-6 would have been tough to bounce back from, especially with one game left in the tournament to play. Instead, the Lions are 3-5 and looking to finish their home tournament with a winning record.
“Now we’re 3-5,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve had some ups and downs at the start of our season. It’s similar to last year. Our team and our school is small. We have a small program, small school, but we fight. We’re always ready to fight and we play the best.
“I always challenge my guys by playing the best competition, and we’re hurting a little bit now because we had a big injury in our second game of the year. But, hopefully, Jesus Garcia, he’s one of our catchers/first basemen, he’s coming back next week.”
A victory for the Lions means several teams stand at 1-1 in the Westminster Spring Classic tournament. Gonzalez will tally up the numbers and reveal the final matchups for the tournament on Friday.