Westminster Christian’s baseball team waited a year for a chance to exact payback on Mater Lakes.
Led by a solid start from sophomore John Gonzalez and a collective effort at the plate, the Warriors got what they wanted defeating the host Bears 11-6 on Friday afternoon in a Region 4-3A quarterfinal at Florida Memorial University.
Westminster Christian (17-8-1), which was eliminated in last year’s playoffs by Mater Lakes (18-8-1), advances to play either Dade Christian or Florida Christian Tuesday in the regional semifinals.
The Warriors took an 11-1 lead into the seventh inning and Gonzalez pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing one run on five hits and striking out four.
The Warriors capitalized on five errors overall by Mater Lakes. Westminster Christian suffered a potentially damaging injury in the inning when star shortstop Johnny Ruiz, the team’s top hitter this season, twisted his left ankle. Ruiz, a University of Miami signee, was helped to the dugout.
“[Gonzalez] is a gamer and he has that ‘it’ that some players have in sports,” Westminster Christian coach Emil Castellanos said. “As far as [Ruiz], that’s tough to see when your best player goes down like that. He’s a guy that’s really kept our tradition going this season.”
Gonzalez had another solid outing in his last start, but it ended in frustrating fashion.
Last week, Gonzalez had a perfect game going as the Warriors were leading 1-0 in the sixth inning in the District 16-3A final against Florida Christian when severe cramps forced Castellanos to take him out of the game. One batter later, Florida Christian homered to take the lead and eventually win the game.
“Things happen for a reason I guess, but we’d love to face them again,” Gonzalez said. “Today, I wanted to just come out throwing strikes and keep focused. I always pretend it’s a 0-0 game no matter what the score might be.”
Junior Cole Kreuter went 2 for 4 with three RBI and Julian Infante went 2 for 3 with an RBI to lead the Warriors, who broke through with two runs in the fourth off Mater Lakes starter Peter Llerena. After giving up two hits to start the inning, Llerena was removed for senior Kendrick Maqueira. The Bears catcher picked off pinch runner Ryan Terry at second for the first out. But Westminster loaded the bases on consecutive walks.
Luis Touron reached on a fielder’s choice that scored Gonzalez after a throw home was high giving Westminster a 3-0 lead. Infante hit a bloop single on the next at-bat to score a run and Kreuter doubled to increase the lead to 6-0.
“After we lost to them last year, I promised our seniors we would get it done this season for them,” said junior catcher Dakota Robbins said. “[Gonzalez] has been throwing plenty of strikes and looking great. All his pitches are working right now.”
WP: John Gonzalez (5-1). LP: Peter Llerena (6-2).
• Region 4-8A quarterfinal — Hialeah 5, Goleman 1: Led by a dominating performance by pitcher Nestor Cortes, Hialeah advanced to the regional semifinals after their win at Alex Fernandez Field.
Cortes gave up two hits and walked one, and striking out 11 Gators — including the side in the bottom of the seventh. Hialeah (19-7) will play at American High School on Tuesday at 4 p.m.