‘Like a movie’ -- CJ plays late into the night to win Division II district title

CINCINNATI — Chaminade Julienne pitcher Charlie Hoagland chattered from the dugout with his teammates hoping for that elusive big hit. One that would break the scoreless tie in the bottom of the seventh inning and send the Eagles home before midnight with a Division II district trophy.

Then it happened.

Christian Gongora singled up the middle and Patrick Gonter-Dray sprinted home from second base, forcing a rushed and high throw, and slid across home plate with the winning run in a 1-0 pitchers’ duel against Cincinnati Indian Hill at Princeton High School.

“It was surreal — I was telling them it was like a movie,” Hoagland said with an ice bag wrapped around his arm after pitching a complete-game two-hitter. “I just couldn’t believe it the whole night.”

A movie? Hollywood would’ve ended it with a home run, but this night didn’t need such theatrics to be unforgettable.

The game was scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m., but the 5 p.m. Division I game between Lebanon and Cincinnati Elder last 15 innings with Elder finally winning 6-2. CJ’s game became the late show. It started a little before 10 and ended just after 11:30. The Eagles’ next game is a regional semifinal that will presumably start on time at 2 p.m. Thursday at Mason High School against Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, an 11-1 winner over Franklin.

As Hoagland and Indian Hill starter Ben Liebel dueled into the night, scoring opportunities were rare, and Hoagland, who overcame an early-season triceps injury, pitched like he has been in the second half of the season.

“It felt good and I got ahead with the fastball early and then buried them with a couple curveballs,” he said. “I made two or three mistakes, but got out of the jam and my guys had my back all night.”

The Braves got nothing out of a leadoff double in the second. CJ’s Jonathan Peltier led off the fourth with a single and stole his way to third while three Eagles struck out, something they did 13 times.

In the fifth, the Braves got a leadoff walk and got aggressive. On a grounder to third, the baserunner tried to go from first third, but Eagles first baseman Jackson Frasure fired back across the diamond to third baseman Colin Kadel for a double play. In the sixth, the Eagles had runners at first and second, but Hoagland struck out to end the inning.

In the seventh, the Braves started with a single and a walk. With the infield in, second base was easily stolen. Hoagland then struck out three straight to push his total to nine. Then the Eagles got a welcome sight in the bottom of the inning when Liebel was replaced.

“There had to be some kind of relief because the guy was just dealing,” Eagles coach Todd Barhorst said. “But I hadn’t heard much about the first guy. I was like, ‘Man, they might bring in another guy that’s just as good.’”

Barhorst had a premonition. He’d seen Gongora’s older brother, Sebastian, knock in the winning runs in the 2018 state championship game.

“Before that last inning, I looked at the coaches and I tapped Christian on the back and I said you’re gonna win the game for us today,” Barhorst said. “And he ripped it, man.”

Gongora was a seventh-grader when his brother, who now plays for Wright State, got the biggest hit in program history.

“In the stands, I just remember being nervous for him because it’s a big, big moment,” Gongora said. “And then he did his job. It was so surreal seeing it.”

Gonter-Dray reached on a throwing error in the dirt to start the inning. A sacrifice bunt attempt failed, but Gonter-Dray got to second anyway on a wild pitch. The stage was set for the younger Gongora to do his job.

“I was ecstatic I was able to help my guys out, and, obviously, help Charlie out because we weren’t able to do much for him all game,” Gongora said. “Ending in that way, and especially in a district title game, amazing.”

Gonter-Dray had a simple thought standing on second.

“He’s going to put a hit into the outfield and I’m going to score because we need a run to win the game and that’s a chance right there,” he said. “We’re going to take advantage of it.”

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