Three months after one Broward County four-time defending state champion traveled to Rockledge High School for a regional final and saw a dynasty come to an end, it happened again on Tuesday night.
Just 200 yards from the school’s gym where the Dillard girls basketball team was upset in February, the four-time reigning state champion Archbishop McCarthy baseball team met the same fate on the baseball field.
The end for the Mavericks came in the ninth when Rockledge leadoff hitter Austin Dennis lined a bases-loaded one-out single into left-center field giving the Raiders a 2-1 upset victory in a Class 5A regional final and a berth in the state final four next week in Fort Myers.
The loss snapped not only a state record string of four consecutive state titles for the nationally ranked Mavericks (27-3) but a 22-game playoff winning streak dating all the way back to a 2009 state s
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emifinal loss to Naples.
“There isn't a whole lot you can say that's going to make them feel better at a moment like this, we just told them we’re proud of them,” McCarthy coach Rich Bielski said. “By far this is one of the best senior classes we’ve ever had as far as talent and discipline and it’s a tough moment right now for everyone. Take your hat off to Rockledge, they played a great game and are moving on.”
McCarthy almost never saw extra innings as the Mavericks were stymied almost the entire game by Rockledge starter Mason Studstill, who gave up just three hits in his seven innings of work.
A Raider run in the bottom second allowed Rockledge (25-5) to take a 1-0 lead on a controversial call. A seemingly perfectly executed 4-6-3 inning-ending double-play didn’t turn out that way when the base umpire said shortstop Eddie Silva didn’t touch first base despite stern arguments from Silva and Bielski.
The run almost stood up as McCarthy was down to its last three outs in the top of the seventh when Aaron Soto drew a leadoff walk. After pinch runner Alex Carballo stole second, Ryan Sinzenich bunted him to third and Carballo then sped home when Alex Toral launched a fly ball deep enough to left allowing him to tag up.
McCarthy got runners in scoring position in the eighth and ninth innings and loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth before Dylan Bautista was called out on strikes.
Soto, who replaced McCarthy starter Brian Gonzalez after six innings shut down the Raiders for three straight innings but ran into trouble in the ninth when, after recording the first out, gave up a base hit up the middle, walk and a bunt single to load the bases setting the stage for Dennis’ winner.
“This is a really tough moment for us all,” said senior center fielder Michael Gigliotti as he walked to the bus amidst applause from McCarthy fans who stayed and paid tribute to their team. “I wouldn’t want to go down though with any other group of guys. They’re my brothers. We won together and we’ll walk out of here tonight together.”
“It’s definitely a strange feeling standing here right now for sure,” said Bielski. “This is unfamiliar territory and it’s the first year we haven’t gone to state since I’ve been here. It was a tough game, a few tough calls that could’ve gone either way but that’s baseball.”
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WP: Austin Dennis. LP: Aaron Soto. Top performers: AM – Michael Gigliotti 2-4