Kurland slices through TC in complete game win

Berkeley Prep sophomore Rivers Kurland struck out eight in his complete-game win against Tampa Catholic in the Class 3A-District 5 final.

By Jarrett Guthrie, Editor

TAMPA – Berkeley Prep’s Rivers Kurland locked in as arguably the best endgame reliever in the county as a freshman, and in his sophomore campaign he’s coupled that closer’s mentality, with poise and focus – and Thursday night in his Class 3A-District 5 championship start against Tampa Catholic – put the county on notice that he’s vying to add best area starter to his ever-growing high school resume.

Kurland was surgical while working through his fifth-straight, complete-game effort, holding a potent Crusaders’ offense to just one earned run on three hits, as the Buccaneers built a comfortable lead and put the game away with three in the seventh for a 7-2 victory.

Follow this link for our photo gallery from this game.

The young lefty worked three scoreless and hitless innings before allowing a run, when Rolando Jimenez led off the home-fourth with a single and scored on a double to left field by Maddox King.

Tampa Catholic’s Rolando Jimenez comes cruising home on Maddox King’s double.

In the meantime, Berkeley Prep (20-8) jumped out to an early lead when nine-hole hitter Josh Hermann (2-for-3) sent a single into right field to score Julius Pfau in the second, and senior captain Troy Reader screamed a single down the left field line to drive in a pair an inning later.

Berkeley freshman Josh Hermann connects with an RBI single in the second inning.

Reader would build on that tally in the fifth with a two-strike skied fly ball that hit the yellow plastic rail cover on the fence in right field and rolled the right direction for his third homer of the year.

“That was definitely a nice feeling in a big game like that,” Reader said of his homer. “Rivers was having a fantastic outing, so to get that extra run for him really meant a lot to me.”

Berkeley Prep captain Troy Reader approaches the plate after his solo homer in the fifth.

“Troy has been our Cap all year,” Kurland said, “and for him to get that in such a big game, it was just such a huge morale boost for the rest of this team.”

An error and a wild pitch would allow a second Tampa Catholic (20-7) run to cross in the sixth, but Kurland would finish out his eighth win of the year without further damage, and eight strikeouts.

Berkeley would add some extra cushioning in the seventh, as Wyatt Ewanowski (2-for-4, two runs) led off with a double to left, Agustin Barrido reached on a bunt single that moved the runner, and James Hankerson’s RBI sac fly proceeded an RBI sac bunt by Isaac Malone, and a third run scoring on a wild pitch.

Bucs senior James Hankerson watches his RBI sac fly sail into center.

After the win, Kurland admitted he was looking to chase away his last loss on the mound on April 6th against Tampa Catholic.

“We played this team a month ago and I threw six innings, and gave up three runs,” Kurland said. “They out-pitched me, so I had a plan to keep my head down and focus on my game.”

Some chirping among the district rivals – players and coaches – never seemed to distract the Bucs pitcher.

“He dominates the zone and does it with all his pitches,” Berkeley head coach Richie Warren said. “I thought today was a huge step for him as far as maturity, in a pretty heated and animated game, he was probably the calmest person on the field.”

Senior Wyatt Ewanowski slides safely into second with a leadoff double to start the seventh inning, as Tampa Catholic second baseman Hershey Sanchez catches the throw in. Ewanowski was 2-for-4 and scored twice in the win.

The soon to be graduating Notre Dame signee, Reader, was in awe of his sophomore battery-mate.

“Rivers is built for these moments, he’s just so even keel,” the Bucs catcher said. “He’s a sophomore, but you see him out there and you’d think he’s a senior … my favorite battery-mate I’ve had, no offense to my other pitchers. But he’s just a bulldog out there, he’s electric, he works fast and that makes all of us want to work that much harder for him.”

Buccaneers senior catcher Troy Reader locks his battery-mate Rivers Kurland up in a big hug after the final out of Thursday’s 3A-5 District Championship win. 

Both 20-win programs are set for region action next week, and Warren said he would not be surprised to have the two go at it again this spring as the state tournament progresses.

“We put everything together when we had to,” Warren said. “You preach it and you work on it throughout the year in hopes, that when you play a tight game, that your guys are ready. And tonight, we were against a really good team over there.

“There is not a doubt in my mind we might see them again in the playoffs.”

3A-5 Final 

#6 Berkeley Prep 7, #4 Tampa Catholic 2

B 012|010|3 – |7|10|3
T 000|101|0 – |2|3|2
W – Kurland (8-3); L – Lazaro (1-4)
2B – Ewanowski (B); King (T); HR – Reader (B). Records – B (20-8); T (20-7).