The name in the spotlight most often during South Dade’s 2014 baseball state championship was Erik Manoah.
The Bucs’ ace deserved the accolades after a memorable postseason run.
While that was happening, however, several South Dade players were gaining valuable playoff experience.
And those guys are starting to put together a potential march back to Fort Myers this season.
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Pitchers Jose Gorordo and Kendrick Pico combined on a one-hitter and Manoah’s brother, first baseman Alek Manoah backed them up with a towering solo home run to lead the Bucs to a 3-0 home win over Coral Gables in a Region 4-8A quarterfinal Thursday night.
South Dade (19-6), the reigning Class 8A state champions, will now face the hottest team in South Florida on Tuesday when it hosts Columbus in a regional semifinal at 7 p.m. The Explorers, who beat Palmetto Thursday, have won 11 consecutive games – the longest current winning streak in the county.
“Any time you shut out a team like Gables, it’s a great job,” South Dade coach Fred Burnside said. “[Gorordo] has to get a little better command. Pico has that. He doesn’t quite have the velocity, but he changes speeds a lot and he threw some nice changeups for us.”
Coral Gables (18-7), which ended the season losing back-to-back games after winning 13 in a row, led off the game with a double to center by Coco Montes. The threat ended quickly after a line drive by Anthony Valdes was snared by Manoah and Montes was doubled up.
Gorordo, who went four innings and struck out four, and Pico who pitched the final three and struck out six allowed a combined four walks and hit one batter, but didn’t allow another hit.
“Erik was great last year and he left big shoes to fill, but I think our pitchers have come through,” South Dade catcher Gabe Cruz said. “We have guys that have been dealing. Some teams rely on their horse. With us, ours can come out and we can bring in another horse to take his place.”
Cruz, the team’s top hitter in 2015, contributed to South Dade’s two-run first inning with a sacrifice fly ball that scored third baseman Danny Vaughan. On the previous at-bat, Vaughan hit a triple over Valdes’ reach that scored Sergio Lopez.
Manoah’s solo blast in the third came with two outs.
Coral Gables loaded the bases in the fifth, but did not score. Gorordo walked the first two batters, prompting a pitching change. Pico struck out the next two, but walked Ryan Maya to load the bases. But he then got Montes to ground out to end the inning.
Region 4-8A — Columbus 5, Palmetto 4: Christopher Coipel has made his mark as a starting pitcher, but he’s recently proven just as effective out of the Columbus bullpen. Coipel came out of the pen once again and pitched the final four innings, giving up a run on four hits with eight strikeouts, sealing the win after Columbus scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the sixth.
Coipel (10-1) got stronger as his outing went on. He struck out the side in the sixth and seventh innings.
“As the game went on, I just felt my arm getting more loose and loose,” Coipel said. “I got used to [coming out of the bullpen] after the last two games in districts and I did it last year also … I tried to stop them as best as I can, throwing strikes, getting those outs.”
Jackie Urbaez drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the sixth to put the Explorers ahead going into the seventh.
The Explorers made the most of their three hits with a pair of two-run singles from Alain Santana and Hernen Sardinas in a third inning that saw Columbus score four unearned runs when two Palmetto errors extended the inning with two outs.
Down 4-1 in the fourth, Nick Vizcaino hit a two-run home run over Columbus’ blue monster in left field that led to starter Matt Marini’s exit. Carter Nash hit a solo shot to tie it in the fifth.
The Explorers (23-5) will visit South Dade, which dealt them their elimination last season.
Region 4-6A — Doral Academy 6, Miami Springs 3: In a finish a lot closer than it looked like it would be, host Doral Academy hung on to defeat Miami Springs and with that, the Firebirds won their first-ever regional playoff game. Doral (20-7) will host defending 6A state champion Mater Academy in a regional semifinal on Tuesday.
Trailing 6-1 entering its final at-bat, Springs put on a furious rally as Doral closer Roy Armas struggled with his control, walking three and giving up a pair of base hits.
The game ended when Springs’ Rudy Rodriguez, with his team down 6-2 and the bases loaded with two outs, singled to right center scoring a run from third. Edric Gonzalez reached home safely from second but missed home plate on his slide and injured his knee in a collision with catcher Carlos Pino. Writhing in pain, he couldn’t get up to tag home plate and Pino tagged him out ending the game despite the objections from Springs coaches of catcher interference.
Region 4-4A — Gulliver 3, Mater Lakes 1: Base stealing mistakes repeatedly cost the host Raiders scoring chances Thursday. But persistence on the base paths is something Gulliver coach Javy Rodriguez has always preached in his years coaching the Raiders.
It finally paid off in the sixth inning and it helped the Raiders break a 1-1 tie and eventually secure victory. Gulliver (21-6) will host either Key West or St. Brendan Tuesday.
“We’re going to be aggressive and that’s the style I grew up playing and the style I teach,” said Rodriguez, the former University of Miami standout and its most proficient all-time base stealer. “You can get in a baserunning slump just like hitting or fielding. You have to keep going and eventually it will go your way.”
Valdez’s play ironically followed second baseman Oscar Marchena getting caught stealing by Mater Lakes catcher Blake Brito, who threw out two base runners in the game. Mater Lakes left fielder Marcus Villalobos also threw out two Gulliver runners trying to extend hits into doubles.
But despite the mistakes, Gulliver ace Davis Brown kept Mater Lakes’ lineup at bay. Brown struck out nine and allowed only one run on five hits to improve to 6-0 for the season.
▪ Calvary Christian 2, Cardinal Newman 1 (9): Starting pitcher Andrew Gottfried knocked in the winning run with a two-out, run-scoring single to left center, lifting the host Eagles. Gottfried was 2-for-3 with two runs batted in and struck out nine batters in eight innings in the no-decision outing to lead the Eagles (22-6), who will face American Heritage-Delray on Tuesday.
District 16 final — Palmetto d. Killian 25-23, 25-18, 25-19: Devin Decker 16 kills, 14 digs; Thomas Latimer 37 assists; Joey Sensale 8 kills; Julian Hunt 8 kills; Nate Parker 11 digs. Palm 20-7.
District 14 final — Columbus d. Ransom Everglades 25-15, 25-21, 20-25, 25-17: Peter Cancio 19 kills; Nicholas Diaz 8 kills; Anthony Taboada 26 assists. Cbus 23-2.\
District 12 final — Mourning d. Hialeah Gardens 25-16, 25-11, 25-19: Carlos Jimenez 9 kills; Nico Triana 8 kills; Erick Nascimento 30 assists. Mour 21-6.
District 9 final — Cardinal Gibbons d. Pine Crest 25-18, 25-16, 24-26, 25-23: Corry Short 24 kills; Tyler Theobald 12 kills. CG 22-4.
District 8 final — Monarch d. Douglas 20-25, 25-14, 28-26, 25-23: Sean Drexl 37 assists; Chris Susanj 12 points, 16 digs. Mon 22-2.
District 11 final — South Broward d. Chamimade 25-16, 25-21, 22-25, 26-24: Garay 21 kills; Torres 18 kills, 15 digs; Manheim 50 assist.
Region 4-8A quarterfinal: Hialeah at Flanagan, 4
Region 4-4A quarterfinal at Barry University: Key West at St. Brendan, 5
TRACK AND FIELD
Class 2A and 1A state championships at University of North Florida
District 15 final at Southwest: 7
State semifinal at IMG Academy: St. Thomas Aquinas vs. Boca St. Andrews, 7