FORT MYERS -- Erik Manoah hopes he can one day tell his kids the story of the 2014 South Dade baseball team.
“This is a memory that sitting on my couch when I’m 60 years old, I can look back and still talk about winning a state championship,” Manoah said while looking at the state baseball championship trophy. “I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life.”
A little over 60 years ago, South Dade High School opened.
And it’s likely none of its students during that time ever dreamed it would put together the sports season it completed Saturday night at JetBlue Park.
After winning its first state football championship and adding another state wrestling title to its vast collection, South Dade completed a memorable and historic year with a first-ever state baseball title following a 3-1 victory over Valrico Bloomingdale in the Class 8A final.
South Dade became the first Miami-Dade County school to win state titles in football, wrestling and baseball in the same high school season.
The Bucs also became the first Dade public school to win a state baseball title since Hialeah won back-to-back titles in 2001-02, and the first Dade team to win a championship in the state’s largest classification since Columbus in 2003.
“This is pretty special for the school and for our community,” South Dade coach Fred Burnside said. “This was my fourth try at this and it is big.”
For Burnside, who has coached in Dade for 31 years and won over 400 games, the meaning of the win wasn’t easy to put into words.
Burnside had previously led Southridge to the state finals three times coming up short each time. But on Saturday evening, Burnside finally celebrated that elusive first state championship.
After South Dade players piled on the mound and celebrated with their fans, they doused Burnside twice with iced water and Gatorade.
“I had the fortune of being part of a national championship at Miami-Dade College, but this is even better,” said Burnside, 67. “My parents never got to see me coach in a championship game back then. My father has since passed away, but my mother, Kitty, is 89-years-old and she got to watch the game [Saturday] on TV. That made it even more special for me.”
With Manoah unable to start Saturday’s final having pitched his third complete game of the state tournament the day before, the Bucs (23-6) turned to junior Jose Gorordo, who delivered 52/3 solid innings allowing only one unearned run and three hits.
Gorordo kept his composure even after a nightmarish first inning in which South Dade committed three errors and fell behind 1-0. Within the chaos, Gorordo fielded a squeeze bunt and flipped a ball in time to the plate to sophomore catcher Gabe Cruz to prevent Bloomingdale from scoring a second run.
“I’ll admit that when we read up about Bloomingdale we felt we had this game,” Cruz said. “We were slacking in the first inning, but then we started picking it up and [Gorordo] kept us in the game.”
Cruz and junior right fielder Sergio Lopez each singled to start the bottom of the second inning. After Danny Vaughan bunted them into scoring position, sophomore first baseman Alek Manoah singled to left to tie the game.
The game would remain deadlocked until the fifth inning when South Dade put runners on first and third with two outs and took the lead on a wild pitch by Bloomingdale starter Daylon Owens. Cruz followed with an RBI single to give South Dade a little more of a cushion.
Shortstop Yuri Rodriguez, who had two hits in the game, came up with the huge play to preserve the lead in the top of the sixth with two outs and runners on first and second for the Bulls. On a slow grounder that Bulls shortstop Austin James hit for an infield single, Rodriguez saw that Bloomingdale was sending the lead runner home initially, but he then stopped after over running the base. Rodriguez threw to third where Vaughan applied the tag to end the inning.
“I saw their third base coach waving his hands and I saw him taking off so I said to myself I got him,” Rodriguez said.
Added Cruz: “That was the game changer. After that, we knew we had it won.”
It was only fitting that South Dade’s historic season would end with Manoah on the mound.
Manoah picked up his second save of the state playoffs striking out two batters in 11/3 innings of relief. For the regionals and state playoffs, Manoah pitched 241/3 innings allowing only one run and striking out 25.
“I’ve been around a little bit and I’ve coached a lot of great competitors and one that immediately comes to mind is [former Marlins pitcher] Alex Fernandez,” Burnside said. “Erik is as ferocious a competitor. He’s a handful to manage, but that’s what gets him his edge.”
Manoah added: “We had our bumps in the road, but we came together as a family and played our best baseball at the end.”
BL 100 000 0 – 1 4 1
SD 010 020 x – 3 7 2
WP: Jose Gorordo (7-0). LP: Daylon Owens.