Going up against a team with a 24-7 record in Belen Jesuit and a pitcher with a perfect 10-0 record in Pablo Arevalo, well that probably should’ve spelled the end of a terrifically successful season for the underdog Miami Springs baseball team.
But along the way, somebody forgot to tell the Golden Hawks. For that matter, they forgot to tell starting pitcher David Cervantes the news as well. That’s because Springs played a near-perfect game last Thursday afternoon (May 1) and with it pulled off a 4-0 upset of Belen in a Region 4-6A quarterfinal contest on Shelly Dunkel Field at Springs High School.
To say that Cervantes was brilliant might be understating the issue. The young junior pitcher proved to be virtually unhittable. In fact he was so dominant that he not only took a no-hitter into the sixth inning but had faced the minimum 15 batters through the first five innings before Belen’s Marcos Perez led off the sixth with a double to right center ruining his no-hitter attempt.
But a no-hitter would’ve only served as icing on the cake. Cervantes was simply out to get those last six outs and send his team on to the regional semifinals which is exactly what he did.
“I was feeling great right from the start of the game,” said Cervantes who allowed just three baserunners the entire game. “Everything was working, I was hitting my spots and getting ahead in the count and that’s always important.”
And with the win, the Hawks indeed do move on to the regional semis next Tuesday, May 6 where they will host Mater Academy at Springs High School at 4 p.m. Mater, behind the dominant pitching of their own ace, Michael Mediavilla, defeated Goleman 6-2 on Thursday night in their regional quarterfinal. It will mark the first time in the history of the Springs baseball program that they’ve hosted a regional semifinal.
Should the Hawks win it would mark another first timer as Springs has never played in a regional final which is one win from the state final four. The Hawks would play either Pembroke Pines Charter or Okeechobee but would would have to travel to either team.
And yes, in case anyone is wondering, the Hawks, now 17-6 after being 1-4 to start the season, will play the role they have come to crave so much these days – the underdog.
That’s because Mediavilla, who is on his way to the University of Miami (provided he is not a high draft choice in the upcoming Major League draft) is considered one of the best pitchers in South Florida and confirmed to me after the Goleman win Thursday night (I covered it for the Miami Herald) that four days of rest (Friday thru Monday) will be more than enough time for him to hit the mound against Springs.
“These kids are always going to be underdogs no matter who we play and I think that’s the way we all like it because they fight harder that way and they battled today,” said Springs head coach Willie Vasquez. “We tell them everyday how much better their opponent is on paper and that keeps them hungry and keeps them fighting. As coaches we have to keep on knocking them down a notch every now and then because even as late as yesterday they came out really flat for practice. You can’t allow their heads to get too swelled.”
Vasquez watched in frustration as his team wasted scoring chances in the first three innings. Julio Mendes led the game off for Springs with a base hit but wound up getting stranded at third on a pair of ground outs to end the inning.
In the second Austin Voeller hit a high chopper over first base down the right field line for a one-out double. But three pitches later, when Belen catcher David Guevara couldn’t find the ball which had dribbled away from his feet, Voeller took off for third. But the combination of a lousy jump and slow wheels by Voeller allowed Guevara to find the ball and cut him down at third.
A few pitches later Domingo Cedano walked but then got thrown out by a mile trying to steal second when hit-and-run signs got crossed up.
In the third, No. 8 hitter Victor Perez led off with a base hit meaning the obvious bunt attempt was ahead from No. 9 hitter Anthony Diaz. But Diaz bunted it too hard back at Arevalo who fired to second for the force out. Making matters worse, Diaz, after crossing first base, walked to his left back to the bag rather than to his right meaning he was “committed to second base.” Perez, Belen’s first baseman quickly grabbed the ball and tagged him out ending the inning.
“Yeah, those first three innings were frustrating,” said Vasquez. “You don’t know how many chances you’re going to get off a good pitcher like that but fortunately we just kept plugging away and finally got to him in the fourth.”
Indeed as the Hawks got their star pitcher all the runs they would need by scoring three times in the last of the fourth.
After Marlon Castillo drew a leadoff walk, stole second and advanced to third on a Juan Kirk groundout, Carlos Santana stepped up with the infield in and hit a shot up the middle just past the diving shortstop into center field bringing Castillo home. Voeller then stepped up and drilled a long drive to the fence in left center for a double and Santana scored from first to make it 2-0. Cedano then came up and blooped a double down the right field line scoring Voeller as the Springs dugout erupted in mass euphoria as they were suddenly up 3-0 with their ace pitcher dominating.
Not that they needed it but the Hawks pushed one more run across the plate on a pinch hit RBI single by Renaldo Acosta in the sixth to make it a four run lead.
After recording the first two outs in the seventh, Cervantes hit Belen batter Javier Herrera marking only the third Wolverine batter to reach base all day. A minute later Tonito Galvez popped one up to third base that Castillo squeezed and the celebrating began as Hawks players rushed the mound to congratulate and celebrate with Cervantes at the same time.
“The kid was absolutely phenomenal out there today,” said Willie Vasquez. “I think at one point he had just 22 pitches over a three-inning span so on a hot day that was important as far as him not wearing down. He’s very comfortable pitching in this kind of environment and you could tell that by the way he was pitching today.”
“ I threw about 30 curve balls, 35 fast balls and the rest sliders,” said Cervantes.
“It was important that all of my different pitches were working because that allowed me to mix everything up which helped keep Belen off balance.”
“We’re really playing with so much confidence right now and we don’t feel that anyone can beat us,” said Voeller who finished three-for-three on the day with the two doubles. “We want to go for the ring and feel we’re capable of doing it.”
“It was a really good game, we came out playing hard,” said Santana. “We don’t care about being an underdog and don’t feel we’re underdogs. We just play hard and play as a team. It’s game time, this is just the beginning. We have to keep doing what we’re doing.”