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Monday, Sep 24, 2018
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Now let it sink in: 60 straight baseball wins quite the feat

FORT MYERS — It had been more than two years since Greg Olsen had to give one of those talks; the kind in which silver linings abound, while across the field, a different team celebrates winning gold.

Olsen's Calvary Christian baseball team gathered around him in the outfield of Hammond Stadium, the place where its record-setting 60-game win streak was snapped in the harshest way: a 5-1 loss in the state championship game.

"It hurts in this moment," Olsen told his players, tears welling in their blank stares. "When you wake up in the morning, you're going to realize what you have done."

Still, truth be told, Olsen thinks it may take them even longer to fully grasp the magnitude of 60 straight.

Before Thursday's matchup with Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian, the Warriors hadn't lost a game since April 20, 2016 — taking home two district championships, two region championships and a state title in that span. They shattered the previous state record of 48 straight victories, won by Avon Park in 1954-1956.

Everyone else may have been talking about Calvary Christian's streak, but the Warriors rarely did. Olsen made sure of that.

"It wasn't the focus for us. Ever," the seventh-year coach said. "It was a matter of our team coming out and getting ready to play the next game. And that's where we were very consistent, getting ready to play the next game."

But no matter the circumstances, the Warriors just kept winning.

During the streak, Calvary Christian (30-1 this season) came out on top in four extra-inning games, and it had 14 one-run victories. Seventeen games were shortened, mercy-rule finishes, while other outcomes — including a come-from-behind, eighth-inning rally against Carrollwood Day just last month — were less decisive.

As Thursday's weather-delayed state final wore on into the wee hours of Friday morning, the outlook for Calvary Christian and its historic streak looked bleaker and bleaker. Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian's starting pitcher, Skylar Gonzalez, flew through the frames, giving up just four hits in a complete-game effort. Meanwhile, the Eagles (17-15) jumped on top of starter Braden Halladay from the start, and they combined for eight hits against Calvary Christian's three pitchers.

Calvary Christian huddles up moments before the Class 4A state final. (SCOTT PURKS, Special to the Times)

The Warriors, though, had encountered moments of doubt many times before, so their demeanor didn't change. In synch with each other they shouted, hanging over the dugout railing as they clung on to hope, refusing to accept defeat until the final ground-out was made.

"There was nothing different. We faced a lot of great teams, and we beat a lot of great teams," Warriors ace Nolan Hudi said about the loss.

"(Thursday night) wasn't our night. It was their night. … It's baseball, and that's what happens."

And perhaps that was the biggest lesson of all. Because in baseball, sometimes things go your way, Olsen reminded them, and other times they don't.

But 60 straight?

"I don't think it'll ever, ever be touched," Olsen said.

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