Orange Lutheran One Win Away From Back-To-Back NHSI Titles
CARY, N.C.—In a thrilling affair that saw both teams neck and neck for much of the contest, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran outlasted Calvary Christian Academy (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), 3-2, for a spot in Saturday's NHSI championship game.
With Green Hope (Cary, N.C.) having already clinched a berth in the tournament's championship game, all eyes were fixed upon Coleman Field at USA Baseball's National Training Complex to see who would join the Falcons. That is where Orange Lutheran—the 2017 NHSI champions—duked it out against Calvary Christian, eventually emerging victorious after reliever Evan Adolphus was able to work out of a bases loaded jam in the seventh inning.
But before Adolphus' escape act, Orange Lutheran jumped ahead in the second, when staff ace Cole Winn—who was playing first base on Friday—led off the inning with a bloop single. Winn, who finished with two hits, came around to score a few batters later when catcher Brandon Heidal lined an RBI single into center field.
The Lancers doubled their lead later in the inning, when center fielder Chad Born popped up a bunt that somehow found the ground, allowing Heidal to score from third.
Despite trailing 2-0 early against the defending NHSI champions, Calvary Christian didn't go down easily. The Eagles broke through in the fourth, when catcher Ben Rozenblum led off the frame with a solo home run over the left-field fence. Later in the inning, center fielder Daley Weppner tied the game with an RBI single.
The back-and-forth affair reached a stalemate in the fifth and sixth innings, with neither team able to jump in front and instead setting the stage for a wild final frame.
Chad Born, yet again the catalyst, started the top of the seventh with a leadoff double down the left-field line, putting the potential go-ahead run in scoring position for Orange Lutheran. A groundout moved Born to third, but he didn't stay there long, as the next batter—shortstop Zach Lew—laced an RBI single past Calvary Christian shortstop Reynel Delgado.
In addition to scoring the game-winning run, Born finished with two hits and two stolen bases.
“Chad is just continuing to get better and better,” Orange Lutheran head coach Eric Borba said. “We didn’t know six months ago if he was even going to be playing varsity baseball and he just got that opportunity and took advantage of it. For him to step in and be that catalyst says a lot about that young guy.”
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Working with a 3-2 lead, it was up to Adolphus to preserve the lead and send his team to its second consecutive NHSI championship game. Unfortunately for the tall righthander, three of the first five Calvary Christian hitters reached base to start the seventh, loading the bases with two outs and setting up the biggest at-bat of the game.
“Evan is one that seems to pitch a lot better when the emotions are high,” Borba said. “So we were trying to get him fired up and trying to get him amped up a little bit because he really gets focused."
Whatever the method or the motivation, it worked. Adolphus forced the next hitter into a long fly ball out to right field, ending the game and sending Orange Lutheran to Saturday's title game.
“It’s go out and get another one,” Borba said. “Find a way to win and play with some heart and do the little things to be a team to help win a ball game for you. Nothing’s over yet. Green Hope is doing everything right now. It’s going to be a tall task for us.”