Forest vs. Trinity Catholic Baseball

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Posted March 21, 2023 | Photos By Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette

History was made on March 21 as the Trinity Catholic Celtics (10-2) and the Forest Wildcats (6-4) baseball teams faced off for the first time.

Forest starting pitcher Mason Laurito came out firing as he worked around a walk to strike out the side in the top of the first inning. Trinity Catholic starting pitcher Ryan Young answered with a scoreless inning despite walking a batter and giving up a single to Mikey Mellucci.

After a one-out walk by Brian Rudman, Laurito lost control of the strike zone and walked the next three hitters to bring home Rudman and give Trinity Catholic a 1-0 lead in the top of the second.

Jorge Romero came in for Laurito and faced a based-loaded one-out situation. Romero retired Connor Tundis and Seve Fernandez to get out of the jam and keep it at a one-run deficit.

Forest head coach Mark Streit had nothing but high praise for Romero’s perseverance of coming in at a tough spot and working out of it.

“He didn’t make the team his first three years and tonight he gets thrown into a big role during a big game. He did a great job coming in and filling that role and he had the whole team behind him,” Streit said.

Young started off the home half of the second inning with back-to-back strikeouts before running into issues of his own. He hit a batter and then gave up a run-scoring single to right by Jayden Williar.

An error by shortstop Cade Hentz prolonged the inning, which was followed by walks from Aren Smith and a run-scoring walk from Trevor Murray to give Forest the lead. Mellucci added on with a run-scoring single to center field and a throwing error by third baseman Mekai Griffin pushed across three more runs.

Once the dust settled, Forest held a 6-1 lead heading into the third inning. Hentz hit a leadoff single to center and scored on a sacrifice fly from Rudman to make the score 6-2.

Things settled in as Jake Pereira came in to relieve Young for Trinity Catholic and threw a scoreless inning. Romero continued his great outing with a scoreless frame in the top of the fourth. Pereira matched Romero with a scoreless bottom of the fourth to keep Forest’s lead at 6-2.

Trinity Catholic put their rally caps on in the top of the fifth inning as Ashton Fernandez singled to left and Rudman drew a walk with one out. The walk ended Romero’s superb outing as he gave way to Brock White.

White struck out Anthony Vizzini to start his outing but gave up a run-scoring single to Preston Wright. An errant pickoff throw to first base by White allowed another run to score for Trinity Catholic and Tundis singled home the third run of the inning.

On Tundis’ base hit, Rudman was thrown out at third base to end the rally as Forest lead shrank down to 6-5.

Smith drove in Robert Kohler on a run-scoring double down the right field line to put Forest up 7-5. Trinity Catholic called upon Drew Meyer to get out of the inning with a strikeout.

Kohl Kilcrease took the mound for Forest in the top of the sixth and proceeded to strike out the side in order. Meyer held the Forest bats scoreless in the bottom half of the inning on two strikeouts and a flyout.

Kilcrease worked around a two-out walk in the seventh inning and struck out Wright to capture the 7-5 win for Forest.

The loss ended the Celtics six-game winning streak and head coach Tommy Bond said he expected his team to bounce back quickly.

“I’m a little disappointed in the way we played. They took advantage of the mistakes we made, and they were efficient by making good pitches when they had to make them. Give all the credit to Forest, they took advantage of the opportunities we presented them,” Bond said. “I think it’s going to put our feet back on the ground a little bit. We were rolling along pretty good and it’s my hope that it humbles us a little bit.”

The historic matchup’s significance was not lost on Bond as he talked about the impact of this newly formed series between two premier baseball programs.

“It’s two good teams and these kids grew up together. I’m just thankful that Coach (Streit) put us on the schedule and it was fun. That’s the way it should be, two good teams going at it,” Bond said.

Rudman led the Trinity Catholic offense with a single, two walks, a stolen base, a run batted in and a run scored. Wright, Vizzini, Tundis and Hentz all collected at least one hit each with Wright and Tundis each driving in a run.

An emotional Streit spoke with pride when talking about his team’s continued resiliency despite injuries to starters and players having to step into new roles each game against quality opponents.

“For them to be able to continue to work and not get lost and worry about who’s going to take their spot is great to see. They know we trust them, and they trust us. The trust they have for each other is like a family and they’ve started to grow as each other’s biggest fans,” Streit said.

Smith led the Forest offense with two hits and two runs batted in, Mellucci added two hits and a run batted in and Porter Craig pitched in with a pair of base hits.

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