The Monsignor Pace baseball program hasn’t reached the state tournament since 2013, when it lost to undefeated Pensacola Catholic.
Since then, the Spartans have been rebuilding to get another chance to bring home a state championship.
Six freshman on that team started the following year, and they fought their way into new territory all the way to the district playoffs in 2014.
“We had a good freshman class, and we’re gonna roll the dice with them and probably take it on the chin at the beginning. And I always put a tough schedule ahead of us and it was tough to swallow we didn’t do so well,” coach Tom Duffin said.
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After a few transfers, five of those players who are now seniors remain with the Spartans. Five seniors who are leading their 26-4 team that has a 22-game winning streak.
The Spartans now head to the state tournament and will face Orlando’s Bishop Moore Catholic on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Class 5A state semifinals at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers.
The Spartans have lost to Douglas, Columbus, Flanagan, and Palm Beach Gardens — all by one run.
The Spartans are led by senior right-handed pitcher and Jacksonville commit Chris Rodriguez. Rodriguez is 11-2 with 116 strikeouts.
Rodriguez hasn’t always been a major star, but his tenacity, dedication and work ethic have helped him become the ace of the staff.
Coral Reef has hired Christopher Leon to be its new baseball coach.
Leon was an assistant coach at Barry University and played at Florida Christian appearing in two state final fours, winning the 2005 state title. Leon went on to Barry University was the starting catcher leading Barry to two Sunshine State Conference titles in 2009 and 2011.
American Heritage’s Madison Canby and Coral Springs Charter’s Ally Muraskin were each named finalists for the Florida Dairy Farmers Association’s Miss Softball Award.
Canby earned Class 6A Player of the Year honors after leading the Patriots to the state championship. Muraskin earned the same recognition for Class 5A after also leading her team to a state title, their second in a row.
Their coaches – Marty Cooper of American Heritage and Mark Montimurro of Coral Springs Charter – were also named Coaches of the Year in their respective classifications.
ANDRE C. FERNANDEZ