Rich Bielski has celebrated four state baseball championships as coach at Archbishop McCarthy.
Each of those teams had their resolve tested at one point or another.
Bielski hopes this year’s Mavericks, a squad that started five sophomores Friday, passed the test necessary to secure a fifth state title.
One of those sophomores, right fielder Adan Fernandez, drove a ball into the left-center field gap that capped a memorable comeback and 8-7 walk-off victory over Tampa Robinson in a Class 5A state semifinal at JetBlue Park.
Archbishop McCarthy (26-5) will attempt to win that fifth state championship in the past six seasons when it plays Lynn Haven Mosley at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“We talked about it during the game, and I told them that I have seen them come back this year so many times, that I would not be surprised if they did again,” Bielski said. “We saw good body language from the guys through most of the game. There was a point though that we saw a little doubt creep up. We gathered them together and told them, ‘This is what champions do.’
“At each point during our championship seasons where it looked like this was it, they had to believe it. They did. And they got it done.”
The Mavericks overcame a nightmarish first inning in which they committed two errors and fell behind 4-0. Robinson’s lead swelled to 6-1 by the third inning.
McCarthy entered the seventh trailing 7-5 after scoring two in the bottom of the third and sixth innings.
And even that inning didn’t start well for the Mavericks.
Sophomore first baseman Alex Toral stung a line drive to center field that Robinson’s Darius Autry snared as he dove forward for the first out.
Unfazed, McCarthy’s mix of sophomores and seniors kept hitting the ball well off reliever Tommy Craparo.
Senior Jake Anchia, who went 2 for 3 with an RBI, singled to center. Sophomore Ubaldo Lopez, who also went 2 for 3 with an RBI, drew a walk. Senior third baseman Fred Matos, who went 3 for 3, singled to left sharply to load the bases.
Senior Dylan Bautista fell behind in the count 0-2 but battled back and lined a pitch into left center to drive in the tying runs.
“I was able to square up and just put a good swing,” Bautista said. “Coach Bielski was calming me down the entire at-bat, and I just had to pick it up for my team.”
That set up Fernandez, who drove the ball deep into the outfield for the game-winning blast that would have won the game even if it had been caught because there was one out in the inning.
Singles by Lopez and Matos set up another clutch hit — a two-run single in the sixth inning by Fernandez that cut Robinson’s lead after the Knights (18-11) had stretched the advantage to 7-3 the previous inning.
McCarthy reliever Brian Van Belle came up huge in relief of starter Daniel Federman, going 4 1/3 innings and giving up only one unearned run on four hits to keep the game close.
“Our lineup has so many good hitters one through nine that we know anyone that comes up has a good chance to come through,” Lopez said. “Even with one out and our best hitter down, we knew we had a chance because we are a great team together.”
ROB 402 010 0 – 7 9 3
AM 102 002 3 – 8 10 2
WP: Brian Van Belle (6-2). LP: Tommy Craparo (3-1).
If you go
What: The state baseball championships.
When: Through Thursday.
Where: JetBlue Park, 11500 Fenway South Drive, Fort Myers.
Admission: $9 per day; Parking: $10 for cars, $50 for fan buses.
Friday’s results: Class 5A semifinals: Southwest Ranches Archbishop McCarthy 8, Tampa Robinson 7; Lynn Haven Mosley 5, Inverness Citrus 2; Class 6A semifinals: St. Johns Bartram Trail 2, Ocala Forest 1; Mater Academy vs. Venice, inc.
Saturday’s schedule: Class 5A final: Archbishop McCarthy vs. Mosley, 4:05; Class 6A final: Mater Academy-Venice winner vs. Bartram Trail, 7:35.
Monday’s schedule: Class 3A semifinals: Tallahassee North Florida Christian vs. Spring Hill Bishop McLaughlin, 10 a.m.; Westminster Christian vs. Fort Myers Canterbury, 1; Class 4A semifinals: Gulliver vs. Fort Myers Bishop Verot, 4; Jacksonville Trinity Christian vs. Bushnell South Sumter, 7.
Tuesday’s schedule: Class 3A final: 4:05; Class 4A final: 7:35.
Wednesday’s schedule: Class 7A semifinals: Plant City Durant vs. Oviedo, 10 a.m.; Royal Palm Beach vs. Sarasota-Naples Gulf Coast winner, 1; Class 8A semifinals: Columbus vs. Lake Worth Park Vista, 4; Orange City University vs. Orlando Timber Creek, 7.
Thursday’s schedule: Class 7A final: 4:05; Class 8A final: 7:35.