American’s baseball team keeps getting timely hitting when it needs it most.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Patriots offense erupted for six runs in two innings to help American advance to the GMAC championship game with a 6-4 victory over Ferguson at South Dade High.
Columbus, meanwhile, has yet to give up a run in the tournament.
Led by another solid outing from University of Miami commitment Bryan Garcia, the Explorers shut out host South Dade 5-0 in the other semifinal.
American (16-7) will face Columbus (19-5) at 7 p.m. Thursday night in the final at South Dade.
• GMAC semifinal — American 6, Ferguson 4: Pitcher Kevin Peraza stepped up for the Patriots on the mound and at the plate Wednesday.
Peraza crushed a pitch over the fence in left-center field in the bottom of the fourth inning for a three-run home run that broke a 1-1 tie. Peraza also pitched five innings, allowing only two runs on three hits and four walks and struck out three.
American first baseman Kendrick Gutierrez, who entered the week with Miami-Dade County’s top batting average in Classes 8A-6A, continued his torrid pace by going 3 for 3 with a double and two RBI.
“The bats have really been coming through for us of late,” American coach Ricky Gutierrez, Kendrick’s father, said. “I’m really proud of how far Kendrick has come this season. He’s really put in the hard work, and he really wants to make his own identity.”
Gutierrez hit a double to start the scoring in the Patriots’ four-run fourth and later added an RBI single in the fifth to help American extend the advantage to 6-2.
Ferguson (15-8) cut the deficit to two in the sixth as Javier Valdes hit a solo homer to left. Valdes also hit a run-scoring double earlier in the game. But American’s bullpen halted the comeback when Andy Figueroa struck out Ferguson cleanup hitter Carlos Tapia.
• GMAC semifinal — Columbus 5, South Dade 0: Garcia allowed only five hits and delivered Columbus’ second shutout of the tournament following Tuesday’s 4-0 blanking of Hialeah. Garcia struck out eight and worked his way out of trouble any time the Bucs appeared to threaten to score.
His outing followed Christian Lesteiro’s complete game Tuesday. Garcia is 8-1 with a 1.20 ERA, and Lesteiro is 7-1 with an ERA around 2.00.
“In this tournament, the pitching has really come through,” Columbus coach Joe Weber said. “To get two shutouts back-to-back is great. You want to be healthy and dominant toward the end of the year, and those guys are right now.”
But a big difference for the Explorers this season has been timely hitting.
Columbus got plenty of that Wednesday as center fielder Kevin Suarez drove in three runs, including a double to the left-field wall that scored Gil Torres as part of a three-run sixth inning that put the game out of reach. Torres and Eddie Rodriguez each scored two runs.
“I had all four pitches working with the fastball early in the count and the off-speed stuff later,” Garcia said. “We’re buying into the approach, and it shows this year. Our intensity is up, and we’re playing for the guys that came up short last year. We want to get it for them.”
WP: Bryan Garcia (8-1). LP: Erik Manoah.
WP: Kevin Peraza (2-1). LP: Victor Morrell.