This has the potential to be a dream season for Miami Dade College’s baseball team.
The Sharks (37-8), ranked 16th in the nation and second in Florida, are set to compete in the eight-team state finals May 10-14 in Lakeland. If they survive that tournament, they will qualify for the Junior College World Series, May 25 to June 1 in Grand Junction, Colo.
During the event in Grand Junction, former MDC coach Steve Hertz will be inducted into the Junior College Baseball Hall of Fame, and it would be fitting if his former team were there competing as well.
Current MDC coach Danny Price, now in his third year with the Sharks after a long run at FIU, calls Hertz his “mentor” and would love nothing more than to honor his friend with a fantastic finish.
On the field, the Sharks are led by freshman third baseman Victor Caratini, a Puerto Rican native and the Southern Conference Player of the Year. He hit .361 this season and led the team in doubles (13), homers (seven) and RBI (64).
“He’s also the most solid defensive third baseman I’ve ever coached,” Price said.
Price is quick to add that former major-league third baseman Mike Lowell played second base for him at FIU.
Caratini, a transfer from Southern University, is considered by at least one scout to be the top pro prospect on the team, likely to get selected in the top 10 rounds of the MLB Draft in June.
He follows a team trend in that he transferred from a Division I school to MDC and the junior-college ranks, where players are eligible for the draft after every season. (In the NCAA, players are eligible starting with their third year out of high school.)
If Caratini decides to stay in school, he will have a lot of options. Price said the coaches at the University of Arizona, which won the 2012 national championship, have asked about Caratini.
Price said he doesn’t have team captains. But the players voted on four “mentors,” selecting Caratini, catcher Danny De La Calle, first baseman Mario Amaral and right fielder Jose Gomez. They helped steer a team that hit a blistering .342 as a unit.
De La Calle hit .318 and split catching duties with Robert Llara (.299). Amaral hit .338, and Gomez batted .373.
MDC’s leading hitter for average is center fielder Omar Garcia, who batted .439. Kyle Prats, a transfer from Virginia Tech, was second at .387.
The other starters are shortstop Robert Negron and second baseman Mikal Hill, a transfer from the University of South Carolina.
MDC’s pitching staff is deep, boasting a 2.89 ERA and led by all-stars Ivan Pelaez (5-2, 1.90 ERA) of Gulliver Prep and Kyle Carter (6-0, 1.71), a transfer from the University of Georgia.
LSU transfer Carson Baranik (6-2) tied Carter for the team lead in wins, and Florida Atlantic transfer Kevin Perez is the ERA leader (1.61).
Price said there were as many as 40 scouts a game coming to see MDC’s team, which is among the favorites to get to Colorado.
“We have as good a chance to [win state] as anybody else,” said Price, whose team was ranked No. 1 in the nation twice this year.
“We’re ready for the playoffs — this is the fun part.”