Mauricio Amaral may be Brito Miami Private School’s “secret weapon” on the mound.
But the word is already out on how destructive the senior right fielder is at the plate. At 6-4 and 235 pounds, Amaral is big and he plays that way, batting .485 with 11 homers in 26 games.
“They have been pretty legit,” Amaral said when asked about his homers. “Some have come in small ballparks, but they cleared the fence [by a lot].”
Coach Pedro Guerra, who is in his 11th season at Brito, wouldn’t mind seeing a couple more of those monster shots this week when his Panthers compete in the Class 2A state baseball championships at Fort Myers’ JetBlue Park.
Brito (22-8) opens on Monday with a semifinal game against Deltona’s Trinity Christian (11-15).
Both teams have championship traditions. Trinity won state titles in 2009, 2010 and 2012 and is making its seventh consecutive trip to the Final Four.
Brito is a five-time state champ, most recently in 2006, and a three-time state runner-up, most recently in 2011.
Trinity’s sub-.500 record this season might be an indication that this may not be the strongest team it has taken to state.
But Guerra’s Panthers are a different story. They have an impressive record despite playing a difficult schedule that included losses to three teams that made the state Final Four in higher classes: South Dade (8A), American (7A) and Mater Academy (6A).
“Our team this year is more balanced than some of the ones we have had in the past,” said Guerra, who starts five seniors, including his DH. “In past years, we had three or four bats that could beat you. But now, any one of these kids can have a good day.”
One player who never has a bad day, according to Guerra, is junior right-hander Marco Bolano (4-1, 1.52 ERA), who will start against Trinity.
“He always does the job,” Guerra said of Bolano, who has been on the varsity since the seventh grade. “His stability is what makes me give him the ball in the most important games.”
Guerra said that if there is a team weakness, it would be the defense, where some of the younger players have had “lapses” from time to time.
But if that is tightened up and Bolano does the job again, Brito will advance to Tuesday’s final to play the winner of the other semifinal between Orlando Christian Prep (15-8) and Naples’ Seacrest Country Day (20-8).
And that’s when Guerra may opt to drop his “secret weapon” — Amaral the pitcher.
Guerra also has senior right-hander Leandro Espinosa (5-0, 2.07 ERA), who could be used as a starter or in relief.
But Amaral, who has a scholarship to Miami Dade College as a hitter and a pitcher, has been throwing 92 to 94 mph in limited action.
“He is someone I have saved,” Guerra said.
Amaral, who has received MLB Draft interest from the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals, has been walked plenty as a batter.
But if he gets the ball on Tuesday, opponents would
be forced to deal with him.
Amaral made sure to point out that Brito has to win on Monday first. After that, he talked about his coach.
“[Guerra] has been trying to save my arm,” Amaral said. “Maybe I am the ‘secret weapon’ — I don’t know what goes on in his head. But whatever goes on in his head, it’s always good.”