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Canterbury Wins First State Title In School History

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A special season came to a glorious conclusion Saturday night for the Canterbury Cougars. Behind a complete-game shutout from right-hander Tyler Shuck, Canterbury blanked Santa Fe Catholic 6-0 to win the Class 3A state championship at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers.

Playing in the finals for the first time after falling in the state semifinals the past few seasons, the club earned its first state title in school history.

“I’m just enjoying what we accomplished and I’m so proud of our kids and I’m so proud of the fans that came out today,” Canterbury manager Frank Turco said. “It was overwhelming.”

Tyler Shuck was in control the entire way, as he needed only 91 pitches to go the full seven innings. He threw 61 strikes and recorded seven strikeouts to earn his sixth win of the year.

“It feels amazing knowing that this is our first school championship. It is just amazing to be part of it,” Tyler Shuck said. “We’ll go down in the books forever I guess. It just feels amazing.”

Canterbury jumped in front in the bottom of the first. Carter Smith reached on an error and Cooper Swanson dropped down a bunt that put both runners on after the throw to second sailed high. Sam Keating also put down a bunt, but Hawks starter Zach Scott fired the ball to third baseman David Tomkow to erase the lead runner. Starting pitcher Tyler Shuck then jumped on the first pitch he saw and lined it past third base for an RBI double that plated both runners.

“Getting a quick start really helps,” Turco said. “It helps the pitcher out and it helps the confidence of the kids. We told them, ‘Don’t be shy. If it’s there go to work’. If they are there to go to work than let them work and swing with confidence.”

The Cougars added onto that lead with another pair of runs in the second. Gus Cunningham drilled a single past third base and moved to second on an infield groundout, and Donovan Duvall drove him in when he waited back on a pitch and lined the ball into right field for an RBI single. A groundout moved Duvall over and Cooper Swanson sent him home with an RBI single up the middle.

Canterbury tacked on two more runs in the fourth. Duvall singled and came all the way around to score a throwing error off a bunt attempt from Smith, who reached third base on the play. Swanson followed with a sac-fly RBI to center field that plated Smith for a big lead that had everyone tasting a championship.

“This is the best experience of my life,” said senior Alex Posma, who came in late as a pinch-runner. “Coming here the last three years and getting eliminated and then finally getting the job done and getting to be a part of it was awesome. The whole crowd was chanting my name and I was getting heckled by Santa Fe Catholic fans that didn’t even know my name. It’s so awesome.”

Tyler Shuck was perfect through the first five innings. With two outs in the sixth Patrick Haggins dropped down a bunt single to third and Nic Tamayo followed with the same to out the Hawks’ first two runners on base. A passed ball moved them both into scoring position, but the Cougars erased the threat with an infield popout.

“I just tried to have fun with it and I just felt good,” Tyler Shuck said. “The ball fell amazing in my hands and I just threw strikes. Everything worked out, my defense worked amazing like they always do.”

The Hawks made one final rally bid by loading the bases with two outs in the top of the seventh. Matt Wurthman lined a single into left field and Patrick Hicks and Alex Contreras both followed with singles up the middle. Tyler Shuck recorded a swinging strikeout to quell the threat, end the game and spark the championship celebration.

“Even though we were 31-1 we faced some adversity,” Turco said. “Teams go through that like family and we went through all these emotions as a team and a family. We overcame it and we learned from it. That is what I am most proud of.”

With a 31-1 record and a state title, it opens the possibility that the Cougars could be named the National Champions. This was something Turco admitted he was never focused on.

“I didn’t even know that existed,” Turco said. “I don’t know what to say. I never had a team that was in the talk and won a state title so I don’t know. It would be a great title. Winning a state title was a dream that I had for a long time and the late great Jeff Summer, the AD over at Estero, he was a mentor to me and a good friend. He passed away, so today was special because I had BVD on my helmet and I was just thinking about him a lot.”

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