Westminster Christian baseball coach Emil Castellanos recently donned a replica helmet from the movie Gladiator and did his best Russell Crowe imitation to try and fire up his team.
It worked so well the Warriors took the helmet to Fort Myers.
“It wasn’t supposed to end up on the field but, oh well,” joked Castellanos. “I did that before the regional final game, and I lost my voice. I told them like he told his people in the movie that if we work together, no one can stop us.”
Westminster Christian needed a collective effort to beat Fort Myers Canterbury 4-2 in a Class 3A state semifinal Monday afternoon at JetBlue Park.
The Warriors (23-7-1) earned an opportunity to play for an 11th state championship, which would tie a state record, at 4 p.m. Tuesday against Tallahassee North Florida Christian. Westminster Christian is seeking its first state title since 2010 and would tie Key West for the state record for most championships.
“I’ve been a part of this program since the fourth grade, and all I know is winning,” Westminster Christian third baseman Julian Infante, a Vanderbilt signee, said after the game. “There’s no other option for us so we know how huge this game is, but we just have to keep our emotions low, stay relaxed and play our game.”
It took a couple of innings for Westminster Christian’s top starter, senior lefty Ryan Terry, to settle in and be his usual effective self.
A hit batsmen and a couple of singles gave Canterbury (23-4-1) a 1-0 lead.
But the Warriors had a quick response for the Cougars as their starter — Michael Matter — was even less sharp. Three consecutive walks and a hit batter to open the inning tied the score as right fielder Adrian Mayans scored.
Westminster catcher Jakob Zarrello put the Warriors in front 3-1 with a two-run single up the right-field line that scored Clinton Gulley and Infante.
Westminster could have added more, but Matter made a great play on a ground ball hit back up the middle as he grabbed it and quickly started a 1-6-3 double play to end the inning. In the fifth, a double play prevented another Westminster run as Canterbury center fielder Sam Keating made a diving catch and then doubled up Infante at second base.
Terry gave up another run in the second but again limited the damage by getting a couple of ground ball outs with a runner in scoring position. Terry induced 13 outs on ground balls and settled down from that point on as he only gave up one more hit and three walks over the next 3 2/3 scoreless innings.
“I didn’t have my stuff in the first couple of innings — that was pretty obvious,” Terry said. “All my coaches told me was stay back, and I found the point where I needed to pause on my leg lift [in my delivery]. The ball started going where it needed to go, and I started making my pitches.”
Senior Jagr Henriquez picked up his fifth save of the season for the Warriors after recording the final out in relief. Henriquez will get the start in Tuesday’s final and likely matchup against North Florida Christian’s highly touted Cole Ragans, a Louisville Slugger All-American and FSU signee. Cole Sands, its other All-American, pitched a complete game against Bishop McLaughlin in a 3-1 semifinal win .
CN 110 000 0 – 2 5 1
WC 300 001 x – 4 4 0
WP: Ryan Terry (11-1). LP: Michael Matter (2-1). SV: Jagr Henriquez (5).