CARY, N.C.--Bouncing back from a tough shutout loss on Thursday, American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) used a six-run second inning to take down Trinity Christian Academy (Jacksonville, Fla.) 7-4 in Friday's National High School Invitational action.
Capitalizing on three walks and an error in the second frame, the Patriots sent 10 men to the plate and got contributions up and down the lineup. Leadoff man and shortstop Mark Vientos notched two hits and scored two runs in the first two frames, with catcher Julio Cortez adding three RBIs with his two knocks. Third baseman Cory Acton and DH Dylan Goldstein each drove in a run.
"That was a good thing today," American Heritage head coach Bruce Aven said. "We need to hit, one through nine. We need to just be scrappy, put the ball in play, and today we had some guys other than our top three help produce. And when they do, we're going to score some runs."
The Conquerors were in the game until the end, scoring one in the second and then battling back from the early six-run deficit with a run in the third and two in the fifth. Trinity Christian center fielder Chad Ragland led the offensive charge with three hits, including two doubles, and scoring two runs. DH Trevor Chisolm added an RBI for the squad.
"Stay positive, because tomorrow's going to be hard," Conquerors head coach Gil Morales said. "We did the same thing last year, we won Game One and lost Games Two and Three, and we left here winning a great game in Game Four.
"We know whoever we play is going to be a top team and our goal is to leave here .500, and that's what I told them. I said, 'You guys stay up,' and I thought we did a better job of fighting to get to the end of the game. We're happy to be here but we want to leave here with a good showing so tomorrow's a big day for us."
The latter portion of the game produced a pitching duel between 2018 American Heritage lefty Matt Whitney and Trinity Christian righthanded sidearmer Cameron Jones. The righty, a USC-Sumter commit, threw four impressive frames without a blemish, retiring the 12 batters he faced and striking out two.
"He did a great job today," Morales said. "That's a very, very good team. And they've got some very good lefties. And normally you don't bring in a sidearm guy to lefties, and we were hoping that he could get some rollovers and get some fly balls and he did a great job. He has been battling the last few weeks, getting in the zone, and today he showed the team, 'Look guys, I can help us.'"
Whitney, the southpaw Florida International commit, threw three scoreless innings and fanned three, allowing two inherited runners to score on a good breaking pitch in the dirt. The only baserunner Whitney allowed reaching on an error.
"He's pretty good," Aven said. "He's been pretty effective against righthanders and lefthanders. We would like to get him into starts but we don't play as many games so he's somebody we could have started with. We put him in a tough situation, he buried a hard curveball, bounced off the mask and kicked off and two runs scored but once he got into pitch and settled down, that's how he's been for us most of the year."
Both teams will look to end their tournament runs with wins on Saturday before returning to their home state of Florida.
"This tournament just tests you; tests your program," Morales said. "American Heritage, I have the utmost respect for them and what they've done down there over the last 10 years. They've been a dominant program in our state, and so to get an opportunity to play them here . . . they'll smell blood and it's over. We had to find the right pitcher to keep us in the game and they did fight back today, which was great and you know we were maybe two swings away from being tying this game up or even winning it."