The experience of three consecutive state championship seasons has taught the Archbishop McCarthy baseball team not to look past any opponent.
Led by another solid outing by junior pitcher Brian Gonzalez, the Mavericks kept their focus and defeated upset-minded Belen Jesuit 5-1 in a Region 4-6A quarterfinal Saturday night at home.
Archbishop McCarthy (23-5) advances to play Mater Academy in a highly-anticipated matchup of two of the state’s most talented teams Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Lions (24-3) will likely host the game at Westland Gardens Park in Hialeah Gardens.
Gonzalez, a University of Miami commit, struck out nine and went six innings, allowing only one run on three hits and walking three. Gonzalez also had a key two-run double that gave the Mavericks the cushion they needed in a four-run fifth inning that extended their lead at the time to 5-0.
“I knew Belen was a solid team, well-coached and solid players,” Gonzalez said. “Ever since I came here as a freshman, I’ve kind of been thrown into the fire in these types of games. I just wanted to relax and hit my spots because sometimes when the adrenaline’s pumping, games can get out of hand and I couldn’t let that happen.”
Junior center fielder Brandon Vicens continued his impressive power hitting with a third-inning blast that traveled over 355 feet over the right-center field fence to give McCarthy a 1-0 edge.
It was Vicens’ team-high 10th home run of the season. Vicens scored on Gonzalez’s double to right-center in the fifth as did third baseman Jonathan Quintana who led off the inning with a double. First baseman Aaron Soto, who would later pitch a scoreless seventh inning, was walked intentionally and later scored when shortstop Eddie Silva ripped a single to center scoring two more runs.
Belen (19-9) only mounted one serious threat to Gonzalez, and it came in the sixth when it loaded the bases with one out on a single by Ryan Rodriguez-Mena and a pair of walks. After a strikeout, catcher David Guevara blooped a single to right scoring Alex Cabrera to put the Wolverines on the board.
But Gonzalez recovered quickly and struck out Lucas Fernandez-Rocha to get out of the jam.
“I was super happy with Brian tonight because he’s our horse,” Archbishop McCarthy coach Rich Bielski said. “He challenged people tonight with his fastball and was very clutch at the plate too. He’s been dominating all season and bringing that little extra in tough jams.”
WP: Brian Gonzalez. LP: William Fabra (5-2).
• Region 4-7A quarterfinal — St. Thomas Aquinas 4, Monarch 1: Senior left-hander Alec Byrd struck out seven batters in a complete game as the host Raiders beat the Knights, avenging last season’s elimination to Monarch. “I just kept getting looser and looser as the game went on,” said Byrd, who scattered four hits and improved to 7-2.
“It’s great to come out on top instead of losing, obviously, but it’s also good for our team so that we can keep moving on and keep reaching our goal of getting to states.”
St. Thomas Aquinas (17-6) perfectly executed a hit-and-run in the first inning as Christian Demby doubled to left-center, scoring Peter Nicoletto from first.