By Gary Curreri
Junior pitcher Mitchell Carroll pitched a complete game, no-hitter, as Highlands Christian Academy’s baseball team topped host Calvary Christian, 6-0, in the championship game of the 4Him Classic during Spring Break.
“I don’t remember if I have thrown a no-hitter before,” said Carroll, 17, of Coral Springs, who received the tournament’s Outstanding Pitcher award. “I just compete against the execution of the pitch and control the things I can control. It is always nice to win a championship.”
Carroll ran his season record to 4-1 as he finished with 11 strikeouts in the contest in which he faced just three batters over the minimum. The victory avenged a 5-3 loss to the Eagles earlier in the season.
Senior second baseman Quinsley Balentine, 18, of Deerfield Beach, was awarded the MVP Award as he batted .500 for the tourney. Balentine went 3 for 4 with 2 RBIs to lead the eight hit attack in the championship game.
“We became more disciplined mid-game at the plate and more patient,” said Highlands Christian Academy coach Bruce Charlebois, who is in his eighth year at the school. “We laid off the breaking ball out of the zone and let the game come to us.”
Charlebois said the bottom of his lineup also came through in the clutch, which was key to the title. Aryton Barbolina, James McGrath and Kyle Bombardier all had solid production in the tournament from the 7, 8 and 9 spots in the lineup.
Highlands Christian got the only run it needed in the top of the sixth when Drexler Macaay and Balentine reached on an error. After Macaay was caught stealing, Saul Velez doubled to left to score Balentine for a 1-0 lead.
The Knights put the game away with five runs with one out in the top of the seventh. Bombardier reached on a third strike passed ball and Kirvin Moesquit had a RBI double to score Bombardier for a 2- 0.
Moesquit stole third and both Bernedley Martina and Macaay both walked.
Balentine followed with a single to center to score Moesquit and Martina, and Macaay moved to third on the hit. Macaay scored and Balentine advanced to second on a wild pitch. Balentine stole third and scored on a groundout.
Highlands Christian opened the tournament with a 13-1 victory over Dade Christian and followed that up with a 6-1 win over Northeast in the second contest.
“We are exactly where we need to be at this point of the season, sitting 11-5 and gaining ground on our character, conditioning and chemistry,” Charlebois said. “It was the first goal of four goals we set for a championship season. We wanted to win the Spring Break tournament and the next three are districts, regionals and states. I am confident that we will make our annual strong run at the end.”
Highlands Christian Academy is currently 11-5 overall and 4-2 in the highly competitive District 14-3A, which includes Coral Springs Christian, Jupiter Christian, Lake Worth Christian, Oxbridge Academy, Trinity Christian and Westminster Academy.
“This is by far the toughest district that we have faced and I have to believe one of the strongest divisions in the state,” said Charlebois, whose team lost in the Class 1A regional finals in 2010 to state runnerup Miami Brito and in 2008 to the eventual state Class 2A champion, Westminster Christian, also in the regional final.
Coral Springs Christian will host the district tournament beginning on April 24.
“If we win this (district) and get home field advantage,” Charlebois added, “I like our chances to take care of the unfinished business from 2008 and 2010.”
Highlands Christian will travel to play Pope John Paul II on Saturday at 4 p.m. in a rematch of last year’s regional quarterfinal.