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Florida Christian Held Scoreless Against John Carroll

Michael Say pitching for Florida Christian.

The John Carroll Rams (4-2) continued a strong start to the 2023 season on Tuesday night with a 5-0 victory over a Florida Christian Patriots (2-3) club that’s facing some adversity early on.

Hits were hard to come by in this one as both teams combined for four in total. Florida Christian’s three hits didn’t end up doing any good as the Cameron brothers, Taggert and Tracen, pitched a combined shutout for John Carroll.

Coming into this one, the Rams knew they’d have to be scrappy to pick up a win.

“Just grind it out,” Rams manager Dave Parra said of his message to the team. “We’ve got to grind it out. (Florida Christian) Coach Brigman, I’ve known him a long time. He knows what he’s doing over there, and we just felt if we could keep it tied or a slight lead going into the fifth or sixth.

“We just needed to grind that starter out. For a sophomore, he’s as good as it gets. We only had one hit, but we were able to do what we do and cause some havoc on the bases and hung in there. That’s not a 5-0 game, that’s more like a 1-0 game.”

The sophomore Parra is talking about is Florida Christian right-hander Michael Say, who was sitting 87 mph and touching 89 mph with his fastball. Say looked dominant through four innings, but a few walks and some errors in the fifth opened up the floodgates and let the Rams put up what amounted to a free five runs.

Freshman left fielder Grady Messner did single during the inning, which was good for John Carroll’s only hit of the night. Florida Christian turned to three total pitchers to get out of the fifth, and one sloppy inning ended up deciding the game.

“We had great starting pitching, and we just can’t hold water in the bullpen right now. That’s our biggest problem,” Florida Christian manager Chris Brigman said. “Our guys are who our guys are. We have a pretty good idea of our depth on the mound. We think that’s one of our strengths. Obviously, they have to pick it up.”

Alejandro Sanchez at bat for Florida Christian.

John Carroll also threw a sophomore to start the game off, right-hander Taggert Cameron. He needed just 76 pitches to get through five scoreless innings while only giving up a pair of hits and two walks. His older brother, junior right-hander Tracen Cameron, came in for him to pitch the final two innings of the game after securing the lead.

“Taggert’s a sophomore, and you know what you’re going to get from him. You know you’re getting a quality start from him,” Parra said. “We knew we had Tracen available for up to 30 pitches tonight, which could have been two innings, so that was the plan going into the game, going five and two.”

Taggert said that he was just trying to get the ball in play for the defense. His outfield stayed busy chasing down plenty of fly balls, but outs are all the same regardless of how they are acquired. Once he turned the ball over to his brother, he knew the game was won.

“It’s safety,” Taggert said of having his older brother close for him. “Sometimes he gets a little hyped and I have to talk to him, but not today. He was calm today.”

Parras was more than comfortable throwing the Cameron boys in the same game. Making a statement early in this tournament is important, and playing with a 4-2 record is a lot different from playing with a 3-3 record.

“We’re 1-5 in this tournament in two years,” Parra said. “We felt it was really important to try and come and here and pick up this first win because now we’ve got Miami Christian on Thursday and it doesn’t get any easier.”

Florida Christian’s Jonathan Gonzalez swings and misses.

The road doesn’t get much easier for Florida Christian moving forward either. The Patriots have a 4-1 Calvary Christian team to deal with on Wednesday and a third game in the tournament that will be determined after the standings are updated. It’s not the ideal start to a season, but Brigman says he hopes that this loss serves as a turning point for his club moving forward.

“A 2-3 start is not what we wanted,” Brigman said.” You’ve got to win early. You’ve got to accumulate those points and be ready for that first ranking that comes out, and we’re just not playing good baseball right now.”

As Parra mentioned above, the reigning Class 2A state champions are next for his Rams. Miami Christian has gotten off to somewhat of a slow start to begin 2023, but that doesn’t mean they are a club to be taken lightly.

“They’re the dudes,” Parra said. “I mean, state champions three out of the last four years and they are where we want to be. So, Thursday is a good little preview. This region is again very deep this year. It’s highly important, when you get a game like that, you’ve just got to come out and compete. We did some things tonight on the basepaths, missed a couple of signs that you can’t do against those guys. It’s not possible to come out and get ahead like that.”

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