The Cardinal Gibbons baseball team’s 6-0 win over American Heritage on Tuesday ended the Patriots’ season much earlier than expected, and qualified the Chiefs for regional play for the first time since 2010.
American Heritage, which won a state title as recently as 2012, failed to reach regionals for the first time since 1997.
Meanwhile, two of the people most responsible for Gibbons’ success this season are coach Jason Hamilton and pitcher Mark Nowatnick.
Hamilton, who coached Gibbons from 2001 to 2010, returned to the program this season and quickly turned things around, splitting two regular-season games with Heritage (12-8) before taking the one that really counted — Tuesday’s District 16-5A semifinal at Archbishop McCarthy.
“I wouldn’t say this was an upset by any means,” Hamilton said. “We had already proven we can beat [Heritage]. We prepared for this all year by playing the toughest teams in Broward.
“Our six seniors have been together at Gibbons for four years. They endured a mess the past three years. But I’m proud of them.”
One of those seniors is Nowatnick, a 6-1 right-hander who has committed to play at Florida Atlantic University.
Nowatnick (5-2) shut down Heritage with a five-hit shutout, striking out six and walking just one. He threw just 86 pitches and got all the offense he needed when Gibbons (14-9) scored twice in the first inning and four times in the second, using three Heritage errors, two hit-by-pitches, a wild pitch, a passed ball and two RBI by catcher Drew Hanke.
Heritage’s only real threat came in the sixth, when the Patriots strung together three singles to load the bases with one out. But Nowatnick got a popup and a groundout to escape unharmed and finished the game with a 1-2-3 seventh inning.
“I knew I was going to get out of [the sixth-inning jam],” said Nowatnick, who froze Heritage often with his curveball. “But I still can’t believe we’re going to regionals. My three [previous] years were really bad, so this is awesome.”
Gibbons’ regional opponent will be determined after the district final, which is for seeding.
Hamilton said he never thought about removing Nowatnick in the sixth.
“Mark throws big pitches in big spots,” said Hamilton, who confirmed that Nowatnick will start the regional quarterfinals. “He accepted the challenge. Some of his best stuff came in that sixth inning.”
WP: Mark Nowatnick (5-2). LP: Mitchell. Top performers: Drew Hanke 2-3, 2 RBI. Mark Nowatnick CG, 6 K’s.
WP: Danny Pena 1.1 IP. LP: Jack Shenholtz 1 IP. Top performers: HH: Danny Pena 1-3, 2 R, RBI, 2 SB. D'Andre Diaz 1-2, RBI. Manny Lebon 1-4, GW RBI. PLA: Tyler Price 2-2, 2BB, 1 R, 2 SB. Juan Pinzon 3-3, 1 R. HH 7-15.
WP: Laiacona (9-3). LP: Mansfield. Top performers: WB: Laiacona 14 K's, 2-3. Mandy 2-3, 2b, HR. MC: Breeze 2-3. WB 16-6.
Nova High swimmers Daniela Veloza and Sam Sanchez were selected as 2014 Academic All-Americans by the National Interscholastic Swimming Association.
TRACK AND FIELD
TRACK AND FIELD