Heads-Up Play Puts John Curtis In NHSI Semifinals
CARY, N.C.—Emotions ran high in Thursday's NHSI quarterfinal battle between John Curtis (New Orleans) and American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.), but John Curtis eventually emerged victorious with a 2-1 win.
Neither team really found their swing in the pitcher's duel, with both starting pitchers conducting solid work on the mound. Devin Futrell tossed five innings of two-run (one earned) ball for American Heritage, while Will Ripoll carried the pitching load for John Curtis.
Ripoll worked 6.1 innings, giving up just one run and striking out three. The righthander worked an upper-80s fastball to both sides of the plate and mixed in a mid-70s curveball that he was able to throw down in the zone to keep American Heritage hitters off balance.
It would’ve been understandable for Ripoll to feel some pressure coming into a game against a perennial powerhouse like American Heritage, but the senior remained calm and collected throughout.
“Nothing’s really going through my head out there," Ripoll said. "Just trying to throw strikes, and make things happen."
Added head coach Jeff Curtis: “He (had a) bulldog mentality and allowed us to have a chance to win. That’s all you can ask for.”
John Curtis consistently put themselves in the right spot and made the play they needed it. Whether it be a defensive switch by the coaching staff or a pickoff move at the right time, John Curtis seemingly always played the right card at the right time.
With men on first and third in the bottom of the seventh, the John Curtis coaching staff made a change. Jay Curtis—who had been behind the plate the whole game and also had his team's only RBI of the day—was moved to third base when Dax Ford came onto pitch for the Patriots, replacing Ripoll.
Just moments later, American Heritage senior Cory Acton stepped to the plate and hit a chopper to third base. Curtis fielded the ball on the move and faked a throw to first, which started a wild rundown. The runner from third was caught in a pickle and ended up being tagged out near third base by John Curtis shortstop Brandon Davis.
Davis then alertly fired the ball to second, where the runner from first was caught in a rundown of his own before being tagged out to end the inning—and the game.
"What an unbelieveable play right there, just really really high baseball IQ by Jay Curtis—understanding the situation and the enormity of it," said coach Jeff Curtis.
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The "underdogs," as Ripoll referred to he and his teammates after the win, now find themselves in Friday's NHSI semifinals, when their pitching depth should start to pay off. The team's starting pitchers have combined for 12.1 innings through two games and they have only used three pitchers total, putting John Curtis in a good spot with just two games remaining.
“Nothing is too big for these guys, they just know how to win. There’s a lot to be said for that,” said coach Jeff Curtis.