Crusaders pitching stymies Berkeley Prep

Tampa Catholic senior Bransen Angel pitched five shutout inning, allowing four hits and striking out four (photos by L. Belcher).

By Lily Belcher, Staff Writer

TAMPA – Even a lightning delay couldn’t dampen the Crusaders’ dominating victory in their 3A-Region 2 semifinals match up against Berkeley Prep.

Starting pitcher Bransen Angel pitched five scoreless frames, fanning four in the 9-1 win, and Alex Sotiropoulos closed out the win for Tampa Catholic.

“We made the decision unanimously after the win on Tuesday that we were going to go with Bransen. He’s been amazing for us all year,” Crusaders head Paul Russo Jr. said.

The Crusaders cracked the scoreboard in the third with a sacrifice bunt by Rolando Jimenez to score Brian Canasi from third.

Tampa Catholic (22-7) tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the fourth with four consecutive base hits. With two in scoring position, Cole Bitman dropped a base hit into centerfield to clear the bases. Bitman scored the fourth run of the night off an RBI single by Hershey Sanchez.

Junior Hershey Sanchez sends an RBI single into left field.

Another pair of base hits put two more in scoring position for Sotiropoulos at the plate in the fifth. Sotiropoulos delivered with a two RBI single to bring the Crusaders’ lead to six.

“[Berkeley starting pitcher Rivers] Kurland has, the last two years, been super, super dominant and this was the third time we’ve faced him this year,” said Russo Jr. “We went with a certain approach after the first two games that we faced him, and obviously it paid off well tonight.”

A two-plus-hour-long lightning delay after the fifth inning cut Angel’s outing short. With Friday night’s game, Angel extended his record to 6-0, and lowered his ERA to 0.33.

During the rain delay, Russo said his team was playing tic-tac-toe on baseballs with Berkeley Prep and staying lose.

“When the rain delay came and Alex [Sotiropoulos] said he was pitching, I knew it was over. We had it in the bag,” said Angel.

Crusaders junior Alex Sotiropoulos took over on the mound after a two-plus-hour rain delay, closing out the win for Tampa Catholic.

Sotiropoulos took over on the mound for the final two frames, closing the semifinal victory for Tampa Catholic.

“[The rain delay] kind of gave me a little bit of time so I could start stretching a little earlier while we were sitting there waiting,” said Sotiropoulos. “Finally, I just knew that I had to come out and I had to be dominant.”

Sotiropoulos struck out three batters in the sixth and one in the seventh after Jojo Troupe scored Berkeley Prep (21-9) only run of the night off a wild pitch.

Tampa Catholic stayed hot despite the delay, adding on three runs in their final frame. Rolando Jimenez scored off a wild pitch, and Danny Lazaro and Ethan Frame scored off a two-RBI single by Maddox King to cap the Crusaders’ scoring at nine.

Tampa Catholic will travel to Calvary Christian on Tuesday at 7 pm for the regional finals.

Class 3A-Region 3 Semifinal ⚾

Tampa Catholic 9, Berkeley Prep 1

B 000|000|1 – |1|5|2
T 001|323|x – |9|15|0
W – Angel (6-0); L – Kurland (7-4)
2B – Troupe, Reader (B); Parker (T). Records – B (21-9); T (22-7).