FORT MYERS -- Erik Manoah can barely contain his excitement on the baseball diamond these days.
That exuberance has spread throughout the entire South Dade High community.
“If there were any thieves in Homestead, they might have been reeling it in on Thursday morning since every police car in the area it seems was there to help give us a sendoff,” South Dade coach Fred Burnside said.
“Our community was lining the streets by the school. Even a nearby elementary school let the kids out early to watch our bus leave [for Fort Myers]. They’ve been behind us all season and that energy transfers to the field.”
Thanks to another gem from Manoah, the Bucs are now one victory away from capping a historic sports year for the school in style.
Manoah pitched another four-hit shutout and struck out 12 batters Friday to help South Dade beat DeLand 1-0 in a Class 8A state semifinal at JetBlue Park.
The Bucs (22-6), who are making their first state finals appearance since 1976, will try to win their first state championship Saturday when they play Valrico Bloomingdale at 4 p.m.
A win would also make South Dade the first Miami-Dade County high school to win a football, wrestling and baseball state title in the same school year.
It would also be a first state title for Burnside, a coach for four decades in Dade who took Southridge to the state tournament three times and is in his sixth season at South Dade.
“This will be the biggest game in this school’s history and our community deserves it,” Manoah said. “If we don’t finish it, it has less meaning so we’re going to go out and compete and play our kind of baseball.”
Manoah, an FIU signee, added to an already memorable postseason.
Manoah pitched his third complete game and second shutout since the regionals began and has 23 strikeouts during that span allowing only one run. Manoah also picked up a two-inning save and hit a go-ahead home run in South Dade’s victory in the Region 4-8A final against nationally-ranked Pembroke Pines Flanagan.
“Erik’s just a tough competitor and just goes after guys and knocks them all down,” South Dade catcher Gabe Cruz said.
Locked in a pitcher’s duel with DeLand starter Josh Dye, Cruz and second baseman Artie Paula gave Manoah the one run he and the Bucs would need to advance in the top of the sixth inning.
Paula blooped his second hit of the game to leadoff the inning and Manoah bunted him over to second base. Moments later, Paula took off to third base on a steal attempt. Cruz swung at an off-speed pitch and drove it to left field allowing Paula to score easily with the jump he got on the play.
Burnside said the play was not designed as a hit and run, but Cruz felt it was a good pitch to swing at.
“I just thought I have to get Artie home and that put us out in front,” Cruz said. “[Dye] left a changeup in and I hit it.”
Manoah won’t start Saturday’s final as it will likely by Jose Gorordo (6-0, 2.10 ERA).
But when asked if he could still pitch, Manoah answered: “I’ve still got three innings left right? I told my teammates that we are here as brothers. All I did was put in my part and my team just did what it had to do.”
SD 000 001 0 – 1 5 1
DL 000 000 0 – 0 4 1
WP: Erik Manoah (9-2). LP: Josh Dye (5-2).