Crusaders set program win mark in quarterfinal victory

Seffner Christian senior Andrew Ura singles in the winning run in the second inning.

By Jarrett Guthrie 

SEFFNER – For three years, Seffner Christian senior second baseman Connor Loomis and junior shortstop Avery Cherry have been throwing partners, and as with any good partnership an unspoken repertoire forms – and it can seem that one knows everything the other is thinking.

With Friday’s Class 2A-Region 2 quarterfinal game against the Brevard HEAT already well in hand, the middle-infield tandem, without a word, worked in unison with Cherry making a flip motion to Loomis at second base. It worked so smoothly that the HEAT runner from first didn’t realize that the ball was never anywhere near the middle infield, instead sailing out and landing softly in the glove of right fielder CJ Koenck, who easily tossed it into first base for the inning-ending double-play – the runner still thinking he’d been forced at second.

Crusaders sophomore CJ Koenck makes the easy throw from shallow right field to complete a double-play.

“We’ve been throwing partners for the last three years, so we’ve formed that connection,” Loomis said. “Once you have that figured out, things like that happen all the time. I’m glad we could bring other people in on it.”

“Things like that make this game great,” Koenck added. “That play gets everyone hyped, gets the dugout up and also keeps the excitement going for the next game we have coming up.”

The Crusaders took an inning to get going, but Andrew Ura’s RBI single in the second, and two more in the frame pushed things well out of reach as Seffner Christian topped the HEAT 8-0.

“That inning was huge, especially for us as we’ve been a second, third inning team all year,” Ura said. “Once one person gets hot, the whole team follows.”

Senior righty Benny Cheek allowed a pair of singles in the first, a leadoff double and a single in the second, but never really pitched under pressure throughout. The University of Tampa signee spun six, shutout innings, striking out seven and scattering six hits, while never allowing a runner to advance to third. The win moves Cheek to 6-0 on the year, lowers his ERA to 0.25, and he now has 71 strikeouts.

SCA senior pitcher Benny Cheek, improved to 6-0 on the season.

“That first inning they got a couple of hits, but (Cheek) just kept his cool,” Cheek’s batterymate, Ura said. “He doesn’t go in the dugout and get mad, doesn’t throw stuff, he just comes back out, makes an adjustment and keeps going forward.”

Jake Foster drove in his team’s second (as well as its eighth) run of the game going 2-for-3, though reaching all three times, and Koenck drove in a run in the second inning as well.

“That inning was big to start the scoring for us,” Koenck said. “As soon as we start putting up runs, the next inning we added more, and just kept the ball rolling.”

The home-third saw Cheek helping his cause with an RBI single, and Clay Odiorne (2-for-3) singling in a run as well. Spencer Boynton doubled and scored one, and Dylan Cheeley walked, stole second and scored the deciding run in the previous inning.

Junior righty Joe Tomasello finished things off with a clean seventh inning to seal the win.

All nine offensive starters for the Crusaders contributed either a run or RBI to the win, as Seffner Christian set a new program mark with its 18th win (18-4-1).

Brevard HEAT (4-12) got a double from Samuel Rogers, and five singles from five other players.

The win sets up a home region semifinal matchup for next Wednesday against Seffner Christian’s 2A-District 8 foe Winter Haven All Saints, tentatively set for a 4 p.m. first pitch.

2A-Region 2 Quarterfinal 

Seffner Christian 8
Brevard HEAT 0

HEAT 000|000|0 – |0|6|2
SC     032|120|x – |8|8|0
W – Cheek (6-0); L – T. Puhnaty (0-6).
2B – Rogers (HEAT); Boynton (SC). Records – HEAT (4-12); SC (18-4-1).