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Bishop Verot Advances To Class 4A State Championship

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Following its 3-1 victory over Providence, Bishop Verot manager David Nelson hugged each of his seniors and thanked them for getting him one more day with the team. The veteran skipper recently announced that he will be stepping down at the end of this season, which extended one more game after the Vikings defeated the Stallions in a Class 4A state semifinal at jetBlue Park on Friday morning.

Bishop Verot (15-14) will face Calvary Christian-Fort Lauderdale in Saturday afternoon’s state championship. The Eagles (20-9) advanced with a 6-1 win over Berkeley Prep in the other 4A semifinal on Friday afternoon.

Ivan Cotto delivered the winning runs with the game tied in the top of the sixth. The right fielder jumped on a 1-0 offering and sent the ball deep into the cavernous outfield for a two-RBI double. Catcher Michael Richey singled past second base for his second hit of the day to get things started in the sixth, and then he gave way to courtesy-runner Drew Dwyer. Blaze Alexander moved Dwyer over with a sacrifice bunt and Carson Smith was hit by a pitch to bring Cotto up to the plate for the deciding hit.

“It was a great feeling. All of my teammates were cheering for me and I was pumped and ready for the next inning,” Cotto said. “He was throwing all off-speed, and the first pitch was a slider and I pulled off the pitch. The next pitch was a strike and I had to stay in there. Then he left a slider right down the middle and I did what I have been doing in practice and I hit it over his head.”

The Vikings fell behind in the second after Jake Morrow lined an RBI single up the middle to score McCray Bennett and put the Stallions (27-6) ahead with a 1-0 advantage. Bennett tripled deep to center field with two outs to get into scoring position.

Verot responded right back to even the score in the top of the third. Starting pitcher Gunnar Byrd singled to right field and was replaced on the bases by courtesy-runner Bryce Glasgow. A sac bunt from Trevor Cramer moved Glasgow to second, and two batters later Alexander walked to put two ducks on the pond. A double-steal play worked to bring Glasgow in, as the throw to second went wild.

Gunnar Byrd earned the complete-game victory for the Vikings.

The Vikings did well on staying back on the ball and driving it up the middle, which was the game plan once they knew which pitcher they were facing on Friday.

“Everything was away so we kept going away, away, away,” Richey said.

Playing at a stadium that is just a short drive from the Bishop Verot campus, the majority of the large crowd on hand for the game was there rooting for the Vikings. The team admitted that support helped excite and motivate them.

“It was one of the greatest crowds we have had here, and this is our fourth year here,” Nelson said. “For them to start clapping and cheering all at the same time when most of the time it is our student section, it gets us excited. But to have the entire stadium clapping and cheering as one, I don’t even know how to explain the feeling. That is what we pride our school on is the community. It was our crowd and they were there for us.”

The Stallions (27-7) nearly took the lead in the fourth to quiet the crowd after Cooper Cain singled past third and worked his way to third base. McCray Bennett lined a single into shallow center field, where Michael Green gunned the ball to Richey to make the tag at the plate. The Vikings then alertly picked off the runner at second to end the inning.

“It was a huge spot,” Nelson said. “They were going to go up 2-1 in the fourth inning and Mike made a great play. Then we had the instinct enough to get the guy at second when he came off the bag.”

Ivan Cotto drove in the deciding runs for Bishop Verot.

Right-hander Gunnar Byrd earned the complete-game victory for the Vikings. After allowing his only run in a long second inning amidst hot and humid conditions, Byrd admitted he was not certain his coaches would allow him to go the entire way. But he certainly hoped they would, and he was glad that they trusted him to go out and get the job done.

“I just had to keep in it and fight for my team on the mound,” Byrd said.

In his third and final start of the season Byrd walked just one and scattered six hits over his seven innings and 103 pitches of work. He picked up six strikeouts and improved to 4-1 on the season.

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