Gulliver Headed To States For First Time In 8 Years
Gulliver Prep (19-10) and Calvary Christian Academy (20-8) battled it out for a spot in the Class 3A State Semifinals on Tuesday night, and it was the visiting Raiders that finally came out on top, 2-0, thanks a to a pair of runs late in the game.
Both teams has multiple opportunities to score early on, but neither club seemed to be able to break things open, leaving runners in scoring position multiple times. Finally, Gulliver third baseman Jacob Lombard dropped in a bloop single to right field, scoring AJ Argudin. Jason Marcos drove in another with a sacrifice fly, and the Raiders were suddenly six outs from glory.
“I was in there looking to help my team win trying to do anything I can,” Lombard said. “I went down 0-2, so I was already in a little bit of a hole there. But, I stayed confident in myself and my ability and I got a pitch I could hit.”
Lombard admits that he could have done a lot more with the fastball, but an RBI always looks the same on paper. He knew the infield was in, though, and took off for first hoping the ball would drop.
A bit ironically, Lombard’s older brother George, a 2023 Vanderbilt commit, nearly went deep two batters prior. A long fly ball to left field landed maybe 5-7 feet short of the fence as the wind pushed softly in. The two are always trying to one-up one another, and it was Jacob that came up big today for Gulliver.
“Having both of those guys is amazing,” interim manager Isaac Tijerino said. “I’ve been lucky to coach both of those boys since middle school, so I know what I’m going to get with them. It’s all paying off now.”
Tijerino stepped into the manager role over the weekend in place of Omar Borges, who is no longer with the program. A coaching change is something most teams have to deal with during a regional and now state title run, but the Raiders haven’t missed a beat.
“I’ve known that they could make it because they are a hard-working team and they fight hard,” Tijerino said. “Throughout the season, we had a hard schedule at the beginning. There were a couple saying it was too tough, but the boys responded well and we caught fire.”
Right-hander Luca Mendez navigated his way through six scoreless innings for Gulliver, and lefty Luca Tosca got the save in the seventh. Mendez struck out four and Tosca added two more to the team total. Mendez earned “MVP” chants from the Gulliver faithful after the game.
“I just wanted to give my team a chance to win,” Mendez said. “Throw strikes, let the defense work, especially on a big field like this, you just have to throw strikes. That’s all it takes.”
Calvary’s starter, Braden Rosenthal, also had a shutout going in the sixth. The two runs that scored that inning ended up being the difference in the game, but the towering sophomore still put together a quality start.
“It was a good game,” Rosenthal said. “They capitalized when they should have. We didn’t, and you can’t win without capitalizing. Congratulations to Gulliver. I hope they do the best in States. It happens.”
Eagles manager Wayne Rosenthal (Braden’s father) had a similar take after the game, noting his team’s lack of hits with runners in scoring position. That said, one break could have completely changed the outcome of this game. Had Lombard’s bloop RBI been caught, perhaps the game remains tide heading into the seventh.
“It’s just a matter of inches in this game,” Wayne Rosenthal said. “I’m proud of these boys. They’re not supposed to be here, but I say it all the time, ‘we knew we would be here and nobody else did.’ I’m proud of the way they played. I’m proud of what they did during the year and I walk away with my head high saying this has been a great year.”
For Gulliver, the season continues in Fort Myers on Friday, and the Raiders’ state semifinal opponent is a familiar one: the North Broward Prep Eagles. North Broward eliminated Gulliver Prep a year ago in the regional semifinals, but the Raiders got revenge during the regular season, 17-6. The second game between the two clubs was much closer, though. North Broward won, 6-5, but Gulliver proved in the two games that it can hang with the two-time reigning state champions.
“The will to win,” Mendez said. “We have that in late-game situations. We’ve come back from being down by five or 10 runs. A couple of times this year, we’ve come back and we just want to keep it going. We don’t stop. That’s the motor of this team.”