The Canterbury Cougars won their second consecutive District 3A-11 championship in high school baseball Thursday night, their first under first-year coach Frank Turco.
“Love him,” said Canterbury sophomore pitcher Sam Keating, who struck out nine and earned the win, 8-1 against Evangelical Christian School at Rutenberg Park. “We all love him. He teaches us the little things.”
Some of those little things went a long way.
In the bottom of the seventh, with the victory almost secured, Turco was about to pinch-hit for sophomore Cooper Swanson, who had gone 0-for-2 with two strikeouts.
But Turco relented and gave Swanson another chance. Turco told him to bunt. Swanson fouled it off. Turco told him to go for a hit-and-run. Swanson again hit it foul.
And then Swanson hit a two-run homer for the 8-1 lead.
“I was in a situation where I had to put the ball in play,” Swanson said. “I got a great pitch to hit.”
Said Turco: “That’s how baseball works.”
Turco, who had won 10 district titles in 14 seasons as the coach at Estero High, now has an 11th title as Canterbury coach. Turco credited his assistant coaches as the Cougars enter the state playoffs with a 19-4 record.
“It feels great,” said Canterbury senior Kyle Babb, who will play next season at Ave Maria University. He opened scoring with an RBI double in the second inning. “We were a little flat coming out. Then everybody picked it up from there.”
The Sentinels fell to 18-9. Mikey Marcelak scored his team’s lone run after walking, stealing second base and then scoring on an RBI double by Ian Evans in the sixth. ECS fell to 0-3 against Canterbury this season.
“We hope to get another shot at them,” ECS coach Jeff Kiefer said. “They’re pretty good. They’re a great team.”
Connect with this reporter: David Dorsey (Facebook), @DavidADorsey (Twitter).