All year long, American coach Ricky Gutierrez referred to reliever Andy Figueroa as “our money guy.”
And Saturday morning, Figueroa headed to the ATM machine again. Protecting a precarious one-run lead and six outs away from a berth in the state final four, Figueroa got the job done as American hung on to knock off host Sunset 4-3 in the Region 4-8A final.
The game was a completion of a contest postponed in the middle of the fifth Friday afternoon because of a lightning delay and the lack of lights at Sunset’s field.
The win sends American (21-8) to its second state final four (they lost to Flanagan in the state title game in 2010). The Patriots will square off against Plant City Durant on Friday at 10 a.m. at Jet Blue Park in Fort Myers.
“I knew when we were driving down here this morning that I had to find a way to get the ball in his hands,” Gutierrez said. “Andy is our money guy and dug down and got it done for us today.”
Figueroa inherited the 4-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth and worked his way out of a jam. With runners on first and second, he struck out Herbert Iser and picked off Danilo DeArmas.
With the tying run on base in the seventh, he struck out Michael Centeno and Alex Bravo, the latter on a nasty 0-2 outside breaking ball to end the contest and let the Patriots have the traditional dog pile celebration on the mound.
“I had him 0-2 and wanted to keep the ball out of the zone because he’s a great hitter,” Figueroa said of his last pitch. “It was my best pitch I threw in the last two innings.”
For Sunset (20-8), it was the end of a Cinderella run for a program that in its 30-year history had never won a district title or even a regional playoff game.
“It was a tough moment over there talking to them, especially those seniors,” said Sunset coach Mandy Pelaez, who completed his 14th year at the school. “I’m really proud of all of them as we really put Sunset baseball on the map this year.”
With the game tied at three Friday afternoon, American scored the decisive run in the top of the fifth when Kris Perez scored on a Sunset wild pitch.
WP: W. Penelas LP: D. Diaz. SV: A. Figueroa. Top performers: R. Gonzalez (AM) 2-4, R. Williams (AM) 1-2, 2 RBI. A. Bravo (SUN) 2-3, 2 RBI, M. Centeno (SUN) 1-4, RBI.
West Broward announced the hiring of three new coaches this week.
Eric Gudger, a former player at Penn State University, was hired as the Bobcats’ football coach. Gudger was a graduate assistant at West Virginia and an assistant coach at Clemson and Temple.
Corey Sarubbi was named the girls’ volleyball coach. Sarubbi previously coached at Coral Springs and Sagemont.
Shannon Bucker was hired as the cheerleading coach. Bucker has more than 14 years experience and has won numerous championships at all levels.
Former Miami Norland guard Cleon Roberts, who started all 32 games last season as a freshman at Georgia Southern, has transferred to La Salle University. Roberts was the 2012 Miami Herald Class 8A-6A Player of the Year and led the Vikings to a state championship his senior year.
Belen had three of its baseball players sign with colleges this week: pitcher/first baseman Willi Fabra with Manhattan, center fielder Alex Lorenzo with Loyola of New Orleans and catcher/first baseman Lucas Fernandez-Rocha with Swarthmore in Pennsylvania.