Walters, Troupe help Bucs win road battle at CCC
Berkeley Prep’s Jojo Troupe (#24) jumps into home plate as his teammate’s wait to mob the sophomore in celebration of his second inning homer (photos by C. Frye).
By Chuck Frye, Staff Writer
CLEARWATER — Quality, experienced teams are usually better equipped to face pressure-packed situations, the kind that Berkeley Prep faced Friday night, and succeed.
A perennially powerful program that battled its way to the Class 3A state finals last spring, the Buccaneers found themselves locked in a back-and-forth battle against youthful, pesky Clearwater Central Catholic.
The Marauders dealt Berkeley one of its four losses in 2022 and looked to do the same again behind offensive production up-and-down the lineup. Going into the bottom of the sixth inning deadlocked, CCC was 90 feet away from retaking the lead but came up empty. And when the game’s lone error gave the Bucs an extra shot, the visitors took ample advantage, surging to an 8-5 victory.
Ironically, it was the youngest player on the field, eighth grade reliever Jett Walters, that stepped up big at crunch time for Berkeley Prep (now 8-4).
Called in for a late-inning pressure situation, eighth grader Jett Walters gave the Buccaneers a big lift on the mound, and earned his second win of the season.
Replacing sophomore starter Rivers Kurland (five runs on seven hits with three strikeouts) in the bottom of the sixth inning with the score knotted up at 5, Walters was immediately under the gun.
Freshman Cooper Riley and junior Brady Josephs — the bottom two hitters in the lineup for CCC (4-6) — produced back-to-back base hits. Josephs (two hits on the night) then stole second to put two runners in scoring position.
But Walters buckled down behind his best pitch, the cutter, to catch the next batter looking and lure the following hitter to swing futilely at a ball in the dirt.
“I like to go to the cutter a lot,” Walters said. “I try to work it as much as I can each and every day. I got a good pitch on (that last batter) and it’s good to face good batters like (the Marauders) are.”
“I don’t know how, as an eighth grader, he can get on that mound and throw against seniors, but he just constantly throws the ball over the plate,” Bucs head coach Richie Warren said. “He gives us a chance and makes some really, really good pitches.”
Clearwater Central Catholic reliever Sean Wojdan.
In the top of the seventh, Marauders’ reliever Sean Wojdan alternated strikeouts with walks to Bo Allen and leadoff man Gus Barrido. With two outs, Troy Reader tapped an infield grounder that was misplayed, loading the bases for James Hankerson. The senior worked the count full before coaxing ball four, forcing home Allen.
Berkeley’s Bo Allen steals second base in the seventh innings, as CCC second baseman Zach Keith reaches for an off-target throw. Allen, who was 1-for-2 in the win with a walk, scored the deciding run for the Bucs.
Wyatt Ewanowski followed with an opposite-field base hit, bringing in Barrido and courtesy runner Isaac Malone and, most importantly, giving Walters some breathing room.
“Early in the count, I’m just looking fastball and I got it,” said Ewanowski, who also had a double. “(Wojdan) was throwing harder than (starting pitcher Riley) so I know how to adjust. I just waited back, did my thing, and drove the ball to rightfield.”
Walters started the bottom half by giving up a leadoff single to Wojdan, capping a night where the CCC senior had an RBI double, was hit by a pitch, then walked and scored. But the young righthander buckled down and retired the next three Marauders to pick up his second win of the year to go with two saves in his team-high sixth appearance.
Freshman righty Cooper Riley struck out eight in his six inning of work for CCC.
Such a finish didn’t look possible for a Berkeley squad that played passionless in the early going. The top six batters went 1-for-12 through the first four innings while the Marauders got RBI hits from Gabe Wheeler (three hits including a double, three runs scored) and Kodi Deskins along with a two-out, two-run single from Avery Shahriari for a 5-3 advantage after five innings.
“I feel like we had a really good chance to win that game,” said Marauders second-year head coach Dan Wheeler. “It’s just one less play, one more swing that we make. You can dissect a game from anywhere from a fielder to a batter to a pitcher making one pitch … it all adds up.”
Clearwater Central Catholic head coach Dan Wheeler talks with son Gabe Wheeler during a break in play, the younger Wheeler was 3-for-4 with an RBI and scored three times for the Marauders.
Luckily, Jojo Troupe was ready to play as he ripped a two-run homer to left-centerfield in the second inning followed by a solo blast, his third of the season, near the batter’s eye in the fifth.
“My mindset when I got to the plate was to stay calm, get a pitch you like and crush it,” the sophomore said. “I just want to put the ball in play hard somewhere.”
Jojo Troupe round second base on one of his two homers in the win.
Warren’s thoughts on Troupe were succinct: “Thank God Jojo Troupe’s a Buccaneer. He kept us in the game the first four innings.”
And from there, the Bucs rebounded.
“Coach Warren and some of the other guys came around and said, ‘hey, we’ve got to get this energy changed,’” Ewanowski said. “We were not playing our best ball, and from the fourth inning on, we started putting together better at-bats which spiraled into us getting the win, fortunately.”
Playing with passion, the sixth inning saw Berkeley bounce back again to tie the game on Kurland’s two-run single, setting the stage for a fantastic, opportunistic finish.
“Spring Break (started Friday) for us and I don’t know if we were on Spring Break mode or not,” Warren concluded. “But I’m just proud of the way they came back with focus and energy and they competed their butts off the last three innings.”
The Buccaneers’ seven-game road skein continues on Thursday with a trip to Bishop McLaughlin, while CCC hosts Clearwater on Wednesday.
Berkeley Prep 8, Clearwater Central Catholic 5
B 020|012|3 – |8|7|1
C 102|020|0 – |5|9|1
W – Walters (2-0); L – Wojdan (0-1)
2B – Ewanowski (B); Wheeler, Wojdan (C); HR – Troupe 2 (B). Records – B (8-3); C (4-6).