In the fall, Mater Academy baseball coach Mike DiRosa envisioned himself taking the entire season off. His wife had a baby in October, and he planned to be a full-time dad, distancing himself from coaching for a year to allow him time with the family.
But in January, the head coaching position opened up, and the former assistant under coach Eddie Gorriz received an offer he couldn’t refuse. He became head coach of the Lions after former Belen coach Tony Meilan’s stint with the team in the fall was short-lived.
“Just knowing that he’s always been there for us. He came back when we needed him the most when we were left with no coach, and to know that he was the guy that took it, we all just meshed together,” said pitcher Mike Mediavilla, who will start Wednesday’s Class 6A state semifinal against St. Johns Creekside at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers.
In DiRosa’s first year at the helm of Mater, he’s taking the Lions to states for the first time.
“The guys were extremely happy,” he said. “Their hard work was finally paying off for them. For my guys, finally something went their way.”
Previous Mater teams have had the talent to accomplish the feat — the program had Albert Almora (sixth overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft to the Cubs) as well as current UM freshman right fielder Willie Abreu — but this is the first time that it all came together with a trip to the state final four.
“Everybody doesn’t rely on one guy,” DiRosa said. “Everyone relies on each other.”
The player who comes closest to being that “one guy” is Mediavilla, Mater’s ace on the mound and No. 3 hitter who also is a UM recruit.
“It’s always good to lead your team onto the field,” Mediavilla said. “I love that pressure on me of win big or go home.”
He started the Lions’ 6-4 win in regional finals against Pembroke Pines Charter, but struggled early, pitching into a 4-0 deficit. He then redeemed himself with the bat, knocking in a clutch run with a single in the decisive six-run sixth inning.
With eight days between the regional final and state semifinal, DiRosa can send his ace right back onto the mound to face a fundamentally-sound Creekside team, who employs a strong pitching staff itself.
“In terms of getting rest for your guys and rest for your pitchers, it’s great,” DiRosa says. “Everyone has their ace available, and you go at it from there.”
The ideal situation for DiRosa would be for Mediavilla to go deep into the semifinal and win, allowing Kevin Fuentes, who won the regional final in relief, to start the state title game against the Venice-Winter Haven winner.
Mediavilla and Danny Reyes power the middle of the order, and Raul Frias is the leadoff man that catalyzes the offense. David Silva and Alex Rodriguez have been hot in the postseason for the Lions as they look for their first state title.