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Wednesday, Aug 15, 2018
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Intensity, preparation key to Calvary Christian LHP Nolan Hudi’s success

Nolan Hudi has made 26 starts for Calvary Christian and he has won 22 of them. His other four starts were no decisions.

The Warriors have won 59 straight games entering Wednesday's Class 4A state semifinal against Jacksonville Trinity Christian. No game is ever a sure thing, especially in baseball, but with Hudi on the mound Calvary Christian is as close to a lock as possible.

Hudi, a junior left-hander, prides himself on preparation. He doesn't like to leave any detail unexplored. He studies the opponent's lineup, looking for any bit of information. His warm up routine is the same. He goes over strategy before the game with senior catcher Matheu Nelson.

"I'm not really one to get nervous," Hudi said. "I analyze things. I run through the game. I think about different outcomes in my head. I like to go hitter by hitter and really study it. I go through lineups. That helps me get some control about what's going to happen. It calms me down."

Then there was the region final last Thursday at Ocala Trinity Catholic. If Hudi was ever going to get rattled, if the win streak was ever going to come to an end, that game looked like the one.

Consider that the game was pushed back two days due to inclement weather. On Tuesday, the Warriors actually made the trip all the way to Ocala, only to learn one exit before their turnoff that the game was canceled.

Consider that the game was delayed two and a half hours Thursday due to more rain, and that it took two airboats to dry the field to get it ready for play. Hudi wasn't sure when, or even if, he should start his warmup routine.

When the game finally started, Calvary Christian led 1-0 by the time Hudi took the mound. That's a huge lead considering he has a 0.38 ERA. Against the first batter he faced, Hudi gave up a towering home run to centerfield. Has he ever done that in his life?

"Don't think I have," Hudi said. "That was more like 'Hello. Welcome to the game.' I had to bear down after that."

A night already packed with strangeness looked like it might get stranger. But Hudi turned into himself again. He struck out the next five hitters, eventually threw six strong innings and Calvary Christian won 6-1.

It looks as if nothing rattles Hudi.

He was nails in the first game he ever pitched for the Warriors, a five-inning, 12 strikeout win over Palm Harbor University last season. He was clutch in a 7-1 state semifinal win over Delray Beach American Heritage.

He gave up only one hit in a complete-game 1-0 win over state power Venice this season. And there he was again Thursday night, remaining calm on one of the strangest nights of the season.

"I don't get butterflies because I'm with awesome people who calm me down," Hudi said. "They've all got my back, and what more can you ask for."

Hudi will be on the mound against Trinity Christian. That is a lock. The last time he took the mound at Hammond Stadium against American Heritage, he was with pitching coach Roy Halladay. Halladay died in a plane crash in November. He won't have the advantage of Halladay's advice, but Hudi said he is motivated by him every day.

"He's always with me," Hudi said. "I can still hear his voice."

Calvary Christian already has the state record for most consecutive wins. The national record is 89 by Portsmouth (N.H.).

To be sure, Hudi is not the sole reason for the Warriors' current streak. Calvary Christian hits .337 as a team, including .481 for Florida State commit Nelson, .438 for Texas commit Eric Kennedy, .395 for Mississippi commit Justin Bench and .384 for Arizona State commit Christian Cairo.

Junior Braden Halladay (Roy's son and a Penn State commit) is 7-0 with a 1.82 ERA. Junior Josh Emerson is 4-0 with a 0.66 ERA and senior Jonny Bunner is 4-0 with a 0.40 ERA. The team ERA is 0.91.

But Hudi is the heart of the pitching staff. He can also hit a little bit. He had the game-winning hit against Northside Christian in extra innings and has 10 RBI.

Calvary coach Greg Olsen has had a front row seat for all of Hudi's starts. He said nothing beats his intensity.

"From the very first pitch he is ready to go," Olsen said. "It's that Type-A personality, I think you would call it. He's just really competitive and doesn't let anything get to him. He gives you everything he has on every pitch."

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