Since his days growing up playing Miami Springs Little League, Kevin Fuentes could only dream that he would have a moment like he did on Thursday night.
Pitching all season in the giant shadow of ace and University of Miami-bound Mike Mediavilla, it was Fuentes who came through in his team’s biggest moment.
The Mater Academy junior was borderline brilliant as he fired a complete-game one-hitter at Winter Haven to give his Lions a thrilling and tension-filled 1-0 victory in the Class 6A state championship game at JetBlue Park.
And with that came Miami-Dade County baseball’s version of a grand slam, as it completed a four-team sweep of state titles for Dade teams at state following previous titles from South Dade, American and Brito to mark the first time in history four Dade teams won state baseball championships in the same year.
Fuentes wasn’t as much overpowering as he was efficient, walking just one batter all night and yielding a one-out fifth-inning base hit off Tobias Myers for the Blue Devils only hit of the night.
And even though he only struck out four batters, the fourth one was the biggest as, with the tying run at first and two outs, he got Myers swinging at air with a 2-2 curveball, launching the Mater dog-pile celebration at the middle of the field.
“Definitely like a dream come true [Thursday night] for me to go out there and pitch the kind of game I did,” Fuentes said. “I was a little nervous in the first inning and really wanted to set the tone early, so that was the inning I was most worried about.
“Once I got through that, I just found a zone and everything just clicked. My curveball wasn’t really there, but I was able to throw it often enough to keep throwing the hitters off, and then I probably threw my best pitch of the night and dropped a perfect pitch in there. I’m pretty sure he was expecting fastball.”
But if it hadn’t been for an incredible defensive play by Mater third basemen Lazaro Rodriguez to close out the top of the sixth, there would have been no shutout for Fuentes and maybe no state title for the Lions.
After Fuentes walked Winter Haven’s Trent Gantt to lead off the sixth, his only walk of the night, he then balked him to second.
After a bunt moved courtesy runner Brant Howell down to third with one out, Rugi Odor lifted a soft fly ball down the left-field line right behind third. Rodriguez ran it down, making a great over-the-shoulder catch, but fell down in the process. Howell then tagged and took off for home as Rodriguez quickly got to his feet and fired a strike to catcher Joey Jimenez, who tagged him out to end the inning.
“I didn’t even know I was going to get to the ball, and when I got there I really had to reach far and lost my balance,” Rodriguez said. “When I hit the ground I wasn’t sure if he was going to go, but then I saw him take off and just tried to make as good a throw as I could.”
Said Fuentes: “What an incredible play.”
Mater (22-8) got the only run of the night and only run Fuentes would need in the first inning when Raul Frias drew a leadoff walk and stole second with one out.
After Mediavilla lined out to second for the second out, Danny Reyes stepped up and launched a two-out drive all the way to the left-field wall. Winter Haven left fielder Brice Giles had room for the catch but the ball popped out of his glove and Frias scored.
WH 000 000 0 – 0 1 2
MA 100 000 0 – 1 3 1
WP: Kevin Fuentes (3-0); LP: Kevin Wolf (8-3).
Top performers: MAT – Raul Frias 1 for 2; Lazaro Rodriguez 1 for 3, Mike Escarra 1 for 2.