Head coach Robert Gonzalez-Pino dropped a quiet hint a month ago when asked how good his Miami Springs Majors All Star baseball team is.
“I’ve got some players for sure,” he said.
Mind you that usually when asked that question, most coaches try to quietly downplay how good their team is but Gonzalez-Pino, who led the Springs Minors All-Stars to the District 8 championship game a year ago, wasn’t about to do it.
Taking advantage of “new boundaries” and an ability to go get players from outside the Miami Springs area, Gonzalez-Pino did just that and showed poor North Miami Beach and North Miami just how good he was last week by clobbering both teams by lopsided scores to win the North Division of the District 8 Little League tournament at Pepper Park in North Miami.
Celebrating? Forget it. The Springs majors knew they were heavy favorites going into the North Division tournament and now have much more important business to tend to. That’s because their reward for winning the north means they will now host South Division runnerup Homestead this Thursday, July 10 in a District 8 semifinal matchup at Pepper Park at 7 p.m. (For results, visit www.miamiherald.com/river-cities on Friday morning).
A win will put them into the District 8 championship game this Sunday, July 13 at Upper Keys Little League Field in Key Largo with Kendall as the likely opponent. Homestead lost to Kendall in the south final and Kendall is expected to easily dispose of north runnerup North Miami Beach who Springs defeated by a combined score of 26-3 in a doubleheader last Sunday afternoon to wrap up first place.
“I’ve got to be honest, the north division was really weak and I really had to warn my kids after the second game on Sunday that the level of competition is really going to increase dramatically when we face Homestead on Thursday,” said Gonzalez-Pino. “The kids did a great job of taking care of their business at Pepper Park but the challenge in front of me now is keeping them focused for what is going to be a much tougher game on Thursday against Homestead and hopefully on Sunday against Kendall if we can get past Homestead.”
The Springs majors wasted little time exhibiting their superiority when they opened the tournament last week (July 2) by wiping out North Miami 14-1 thanks in part to a one-hit effort by pitcher and co-captain Nick Vera.
How loaded is the Springs roster? At one point, with his team well ahead, Gonzalez-Pino sent pinch non-starter Christian Rodriguez in to pinch hit with the bases loaded and two outs. So what’s he do? Tags one over the left field fence for a grand slam home run.
Robert Moya, the team’ other’s co-captain hit two “tape measure” home runs against NMB on Sunday that, according to Gonzalez-Pino, nearly hit cars traveling westbound on NW 138th street. When it was all over and the dust had cleared, Miami Springs majors batters had hit a total of 12, that’s right, an even dozen, home runs in the three wins.
Anthony Nunez, the lone Miami Springs resident on the roster who hits No. 2 in the lineup and plays left field and catcher, also got in on the home run derby by hitting one out in the North Miami game.
“We’ve worked hard to put this team together and really represent Miami Springs proudly,” said Gonzalez-Pino. “Hopefully we can keep it going this week.”