Archbishop McCarthy’s baseball dynasty was in serious jeopardy Tuesday night.
The Mavericks trailed by five runs midway through their Region 4-6A semifinal against a Mater Academy squad ranked among the best in the state.
McCarthy once again responded with the experience of a championship team.
The Mavericks batted around in the top of the fifth inning scoring seven runs in the frame and hung on behind a solid relief effort by pitcher Aaron Soto to secure a 7-6 comeback win against the Lions at Westland Gardens Park.
Soto relieved starter Andres Nunez in the second inning and pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing only one run and struck out eight as the Mavericks (24-5) kept their bid for a fourth consecutive state championship alive.
Archbishop McCarthy will host Naples Gulf Coast Friday at 7 p.m. in the regional final.
“We’re super excited about the boys’ effort,” Archbishop McCarthy coach Rich Bielski said. “They never quit. We were down 5-0 against the top-ranked team in Miami and they made it real difficult on us.”
Mater Academy (24-4) nearly reclaimed the lead, but twice fell short of scoring the tying runs.
In the bottom of the fifth after a double by Angel Ortiz and a single by Deyvid Silva gave the Lions runners on second and third with one out, Alex Rodriguez drove in a run on a sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to 7-6. But Soto then struck out star outfielder Willie Abreu to end the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth with runners on first and second and one out, third baseman J.C. Escarra sent a ball deep into left center that looked like it would drop. But McCarthy left fielder Michael Gigliotti made a diving catch on the run, then got up and threw to second where Kevin Abraham was doubled up to end the inning.
Gigliotti was also clutch at the plate with an RBI single to start the seven-run fifth inning. Eddie Silva, Michael Hernandez and Ryan Sinzenich each drove in runs with hits in the inning as well.
WP: Aaron Soto. LP: Andrew Cabezas.
• Region 4-5A semifinal — American Heritage 10, Jensen Beach 0: For the second consecutive regional playoff, the American Heritage lineup supplied the power for another victory and another shutout for right-hander Shawn Anderson.
The Patriots (25-2) battered visiting Jensen Beach with four home runs, two of them by sophomore David Villar, while Anderson (five innings, one hit) outdueled FSU-bound Taylor Blatch at American Heritage.
“Villar is the young guy in the lineup,” Heritage coach Bruce Aven said. “This is a kid with a lot of power, and he’s been on the varsity team since the eighth grade; he just has to stay within himself.”
Heritage, who next faces the Estero-Cypress Lake winner for the right to advance to the state final four on Friday, got on the board on CJ Chatham’s first-pitch leadoff home run in the second. Villar later hit a two-run home run before Zach Collins capped the scoring with an RBI single for the 4-0 lead.
Jensen Beach (16-9) posted its biggest threat in the fourth when Blatch reached third with one out before Heritage right fielder Dallas Perez denied a sacrifice fly with his strong arm after the putout, with catcher Collins making the tag to complete the 9-2 double play.
“It was still a close enough game at that point,” Aven said, “so that must have been a big letdown for [Jensen Beach.]. One run and the game could have been different at that point.”
Leadoff hitter Brandon Diaz hit a two-run home run in the fourth before completing the scoring in the sixth; Zardon ended the game with a two-run single to put the mercy rule in effect.
WP: Anderson (15-2). LP: Blatch
• Region 4-3A semifinal — Coral Springs Christian 4, Boca Raton Pope John Paul II 3: Trailing Boca Raton Pope John Paul II after the second inning, host Coral Springs Christian rallied behind a four-run third inning and pitcher Eric Hepple’s six innings as the Crusaders defeated the Eagles in Coral Springs.
Coral Springs Christian (22-6) advances to the regional final on Friday.
Pope John Paul II (17-12) strung together four hits for three runs in the second to take a 3-0 lead.
“He’s one of the biggest competitors that I have ever coached,” Crusaders coach Matt Cleveland said of Hepple. “We’ve been talking all year about staying in the moment and Hep came in and said, ‘I got this.’”
From the third inning, Hepple, with the help of his defense behind him, settled in and struck out four Eagles and forced multiple flyouts during his final four
The Crusaders broke through against Eagles starter Johnny Sheridan in the third inning as Abraham Alejandro’s RBI double to the left-center field gap put the Crusaders on the scoreboard.
After a Touki Toussaint’s chopper over the third baseman scored a run, Hepple helped his cause with a two-run single to left to give the Crusaders the deciding two runs.
“The first at-bat, it was fastball then curveball,” Hepple said about Sheridan’s pitch sequence. “When you get a fastball for a ball, I knew that it was a curveball, so I just sat back on it.”
WP: Hepple (6-0) 6IP, 7K. LP: Sheridan (4-1). Top performers: K. Toussaint 1-3, RBI. Santiago 1-3. Hepple 1-3, 2 RBI. Buckley 2-3. Alejandro 1-2, double, RBI. Gogreve 1-4, triple.
• Region 4-2A semifinal — Zion Lutheran 4, Mater East 0: Alex Ernestine pitched a three-hitter and struck out 13 in the Lions’ win over the Scorpions (12-7) at Curtis Park.
Zion will face Westwood Christian in the Region 4-2A final.
“I did my job,” said Ernestine, who pitched all seven innings. “I felt like my fastball had major zip.”
Zion (13-9) scored three of its runs in the second. The first run came on a single by Blayne Baker. The next two runs were scored on a hit by Robert Barradas.
Following the three-run second inning, the game as a pitchers duel. Mater East’s Renny Tolentino pitched well after the second inning and had six strikeouts on the day.
Tolentino was pulled in the sixth, when the Lions loaded the bases. Zion scored its fourth run in the sixth.
WP: Ernestine (6-4) 7IP, 13K. LP: Tolentino (4-2). Top performers: Nick Vazquez 2-3, RBI, 2 singles. Barradas 1-3, 2 RBI.
Class 7A state final at Vero Beach Sports Village:
Class 5A state final at Vero Beach Sports Village:
Class 8A state semifinal at Vero Beach Sports Village:
Class 6A state semifinal at Vero Beach Sports Village:
Class 4A state semifinal at Vero Beach Sports Village:
Class 2A state semifinal at Vero Beach Sports Village:
State quarterfinals at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee
Class 8A state final at Vero Beach Sports Village:
Class 6A state final at Vero Beach Sports Village:
Class 4A state final at Vero Beach Sports Village:
Class 2A state final at Vero Beach Sports Village:
State championship at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee