Coral Gables has been in the process of renovating its baseball facilities over the past few months.
The Cavaliers are hoping the transformation of its team into a state champion isn’t going to take much longer.
With a senior-laden team chock full of prospects and college commitments, Gables enters the season with one of its most talented teams all-time and hopes to win the school’s first baseball state championship since 1960.
“This year has the potential to be a really special one for this school,” Coral Gables coach Phil Wisser said.
Gables, which went 20-9 last season before losing to Killian in the Class 8A regional quarterfinals, returns 15 seniors.
Catcher Elih Marrero, a Mississippi State signee who hit .472 last season, is a Perfect Game All-American and member of Team USA.
Shortstop Robert “Coco” Montes signed with the University of South Florida, and is one of the top players in the county at his position.
But on the mound is where Gables might be more outstanding than in previous seasons.
Andrew Cabezas, a University of Miami commit, and junior Tyler Santana lead a deep pitching staff that Wisser said goes six-deep beyond his top two.
Playoff success, however, has been scarce for the Cavaliers, who have advanced to the regional playoffs each of the past five seasons after advancing only once in the previous 13. But the Cavaliers have won only one playoff game during that span.
“We have the possibility of having four to five players drafted, and we have 11 players committed to play college ball,” Wisser said. “Of course all that is great, but it has to come together on the field when it counts.”
Gables will undoubtedly battle Killian, which has seven Division-I commitments on its roster (mostly on its pitching staff) and might have the right mix to bring home the school’s first state title.
Leading the Cougars’ aces is senior Eddy Demurias, a University of Florida signee, lefty pitcher Ryan Granda (Jacksonville University), Keith Stevens (FAMU) and Joey Gonzalez (Stetson).
Killian also has a pair of talented sophomores already committed to the University of Miami in shortstop Freddy Zamora and catcher Eddy Arteaga, and a junior catcher Herbert Iser also pledged to the Hurricanes.
The Cougars, who went 26-5 last year before losing to eventual state champion South Dade, are hoping to increase their own postseason success and clinch their first trip to state since 2005.
Both Gables and Killian will have to navigate a tough Dade region in Class 8A that has reigning champion South Dade and Columbus still among its top contenders.
Gulliver, which like Gables and Killian is expected to open the season ranked nationally, could have all the pieces to make a run in Class 4A.
The Raiders have a deep staff of nine pitchers on the roster, led by Alex Valverde and Davis Brown, and a veteran lineup that should give them a chance to reach state for the first time since 2010.
Miami-Dade season outlook
Monday-Saturday: Regular-season opening-week tournaments.
March 23-28: Spring break tournaments.
April 13-16: GMAC tournament.
April 20-24: Districts.
April 29-30: Regional quarterfinals.
May 5: Regional semifinals.
May 8: Regional finals Classes 6A-5A, 2A-1A.
May 12: Regional finals Classes 8A-7A, 4A-3A.
May 13-16, 18-21: State championships at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers.
DEFENDING STATE CHAMPIONS
Class 8A: Homestead South Dade; 7A: Hialeah American; 6A: Hialeah Gardens Mater Academy; 5A: Tampa Jesuit; 4A: Ocala Trinity Catholic; 3A: Tallahassee North Florida Christian; 2A: Brito Miami Private; 1A: Williston.
PRESEASON TOP 10 TEAMS
1a. Coral Gables
6. Mater Academy
7. South Dade
8. Westminster Christian
9. St. Brendan
On the rise: SLAM Academy, TERRA, Florida Christian, Braddock, Belen Jesuit, Miami High.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS
RHP Pablo Arevalo, Belen, Jr.
RHP Davis Brown, Gulliver, Sr.
RHP Andrew Cabezas, Coral Gables, Sr.
RHP David Cervantes, Miami Springs, Jr.
RHP Eddy Demurias, Killian, Sr.
LHP Ryan Granda, Killian, Sr.
RHP Matt Marini, Columbus, Sr.
RHP Mike Rodriguez, American, Sr.
RHP Alex Valverde, Gulliver, Sr.
C Elih Marrero, Coral Gables, Sr.
C Pedro Pages, Gulliver, Sr.
1B-P Keith Stevens, Killian, Sr.
2B Artie Paula, South Dade, Sr.
SS Freddy Zamora, Killian, So.
SS Coco Montes, Coral Gables, Sr.
3B Roman Gonzalez, American, Sr.
INF Brandon Chinea, Florida Christian, Jr.
INF Julian Infante, Westminster Christian, Sr.
OF Josten Heron, Southridge, Sr.
OF Brandon Nayor, Westwood Christian, Sr.
OF Willie Padron, Braddock, Sr.
OF Danny Reyes, Mater Academy, Sr.
OTHERS TO WATCH
RHP Frankie Bartow, TERRA, Sr.; RHP Hugo Casillas, St. Brendan, Sr.; P Chris Coipel, Columbus, Sr.; P Danny Diaz, Sunset, Sr.; P Andy Escano, Miami High, Sr.; RHP Kevin Fuentes, Mater Academy, Sr.; RHP Jose Gorordo, South Dade, Sr.; RHP Tyler Santana, Coral Gables, Jr.; P Andrew Velez, SLAM, Sr.; 1B-P Marcos Bolanos, Brito, Jr.; 2B Johnny Jhones, American, Sr.; 2B Oscar Marchena, Gulliver, Sr.; SS-P Anthony Alvarez, Braddock, Sr.; SS Trent Bryan, Miami Beach, Sr.; SS Danny Casals, Columbus, Sr.; SS Erick Delgado, Goleman, Sr.; SS Javy Valdes, Gulliver, Jr.; 3B Raymond Gil, Gulliver, Sr.; 3B Joey Gonzalez, Killian, Sr.; C Eddy Arteaga, Killian, So.; C Gabe Cruz, South Dade, Jr.; C-1B Alex Medina, Ferguson, Sr.; C Herbert Iser, Killian, Jr.; C Carlos Pino, Doral, Sr.; INF Yasser Santana, TERRA, Sr.; OF Diandre Amion, Southridge, Sr.; OF Christian Del Castillo, Belen, Jr.; OF Raymond Gonzalez, Coral Gables, Sr.; OF-P Lorenzo Hampton, Monsignor Pace, Sr.; OF Sergio Lopez, South Dade, Sr.; OF Adrian Mayans, Westminster Christian, Sr.; OF Adrian Sesin, Southridge, Sr.; OF Ruben Someillan, Florida Christian, Jr.
NOTE: For complete team-by-team previews, please click the online version of this story on our High School Sports page at www.MiamiHerald.com/sports.
Andre C. Fernandez
SEASON OUTLOOK: TEAM-BY-TEAM PREVIEWS
1a. CORAL GABLES (Coach Phil Wisser, 8th year at CG, 11th overall, 161-98). Last year: 20-9 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: C Elih Marrero, Sr.; SS Coco Montes, Sr.; RHP Andrew Cabezas, Sr.; OF Raymond Gonzalez, Sr.; RHP Tyler Santana, Jr.; C-UTL Rolando Rodriguez, Sr.; 1B Elijah Eusebio, Jr.
1b. KILLIAN (Coach Angel Herrera, 10th year at KIL, 15th overall, 153-71-2). Last year: 26-5 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: INF-RHP Eddy Demurias, Sr.; LHP Ryan Granda, Sr.; SS Freddy Zamora, So.; 1B-RHP Keith Stevens, Sr.; 3B-RHP Joey Gonzalez, Sr.; C Eddy Arteaga, So.; P Vladimir Nunez, Sr.
3. COLUMBUS (Coach Joe Weber, 21st year). Last year: 24-5 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: RHP Matt Marini, Sr.; SS Danny Casals, Sr.; RHP Chris Coipel, Sr.; C Nick Rocha, Sr.; CF Dominick Reyes, Sr.; 3B Jackie Urbaez, Sr.
4. SOUTH DADE (Coach Fred Burnside, 7th year at SD, 23rd overall, 465-158). Last year: 23-6 (State champions). Top players: OF Sergio Lopez, Sr.; C Gabriel Cruz, Jr.; RHP Jose Gorordo, Sr.; 2B Artie Paula, Sr.; 3B-RHP Danny Vaughan, Jr.; 1B-RHP Alek Manoah, Jr.
5. SOUTHRIDGE (Coach Ed Doskow, 14th year at SR, 16th overall, 241-124). Last year: 18-4. Top players: RF Adrian Sesin, Sr.; CF Josten Heron, Sr.; LF Diandre Amion, Sr.; C Austin Peterson, Sr.; 1B Jamar Criss, Sr.; 2B Julian Rivera, Sr.
6. MIAMI HIGH (Coach Francisco Suarez, 13th year, 133-158). Last year: 16-10 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: CF Dayron Mallea, Sr.; C-INF Victor Herrera, Sr.; P Edgar Aparicio, Sr.; P Andy Escano, Sr.; 1B Argenis Hernandez, Sr.; SS Christian Torres, Jr.
7. BRADDOCK (Coach Manny Fernandez, 11th year at BR, 24th overall, 308-192). Last year: 12-10. Top players: CF Willie Padron, Sr.; SS-P Anthony Alvarez, Sr.; 3B-P Nelson Alvarez, Jr.; 1B Miguel Rivera, So.; P Alex Martinez, Sr.; P Miguel Velasquez, Sr.
8. SOUTHWEST (Coach Josy Torres, 12th year at SW, 14th overall, 128-88). Last year: 11-12. Top players: C Rey Pastrana, Sr.; P Andres Fletes, Sr.; 2B Alec Delgado, Sr.; UTL-P Jason Grana, Jr.
9. FERGUSON (Coach Jose Novas, 8th year at FER, 26th overall, 111-72). Last year: 11-13. Top players: C-1B Alex Medina, Sr.; CF Christian Martinez, Sr.; C-DH Alex Soto, Jr.; 2B Jayson Gomez, Jr.; P-SS Sergio Ramos, Sr.; P Mark Blanco, Sr.
10. CORAL PARK (Coach Juan Carnicero, 2nd year, 14-12). Last year: 12-12. Top players: OF Ramon Ferreiro, Sr.; P Carlos Cabanas, Sr.; INF Alejandro Vazquez, Sr.; INF Felix Meana, Sr.; INF Giancarlo Garces, Jr.; OF Jose Rollins, Jr.
11. SUNSET (Coach Mandy Pelaez, 17th year at SUN, 19th overall). Last year: 12-10. Top players: P Danny Diaz, Sr.; 2B-SS Robert Hernandez, Sr.; CF Frank Perez, Sr.; OF Alfred Labrada, Sr.
12. VARELA (Coach John Barbato, 10th year at VAR, 18th overall). Last year: 11-11. Top players: RHP Spanky Gomez, Jr.; CF Chris Allende, Jr.; RF Tony Mejias, Jr.; C Hector Vazquez, Jr.; SS J.C. Garcia, Sr.; RHP Nick Leon, Sr.
13. PALMETTO (Coach Danny Smith, 4th year, 35-30). Last year: 11-13. Top players: LF-C Kevin Barbato, Sr.; SS Carter Nash, Sr.; OF-P Keaton Zargham, Jr.; 2B-SS Kyle Toister, Sr.; P Brent Teller, Sr.; P Felix Garcia, Sr.
14. HIALEAH (Coach Ozzie Borrell, 1st year at HIA, 5th overall). Last year: 5-18. Top players: C Carlos Reyes, Sr.; RF-P Arnaldo Brito, Jr.; CF Alexis Figueroa, Sr.; 3B Adrian Gomez, So.; SS Alex Bello, Fr.; P Nick Cruz, Sr.
15. MIAMI BEACH (Coach William Baez, 3rd year at MB, 8th overall, 11-28). Last year: 8-13 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: SS Trent Bryan, Sr.; CF Themi Pineda, Sr.; P Blake Brattain, Jr.
16. CORAL REEF (Coach Tony Meilan, 1st year at CR, 12th overall, 186-81-8). Last year: 6-16. Top players: OF Samuel Sanchez, Sr.; SS Anthony Sola, Sr.; OF Jose Rojas, Sr.; P Fernando Marquez, Jr.; P John Stathopulos, Jr.
1. AMERICAN (Coach Ricky Gutierrez, 7th year, 103-54). Last year: 26-5 (State champions). Top players: SS-3B Roman Gonzalez, Sr.; RHP Michael Rodriguez, Sr.; RHP Danger Guevara, Sr.; 2B Johnny Jhones, Sr.; INF John Ham, Sr.; OF Michael Montes de Oca, Fr.
2. REAGAN (Coach Rafael Mesa, 1st year). Last year: 14-11 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: 1B-P Edgar Pages, Sr.; RF-C Benjamin Meza, So.; RHP Carlos Mancilla, Sr.; LHP Alex Kowalski, Sr.; CF Jose Negron, Sr.; SS Hector Avilan, Sr.
3. HIALEAH-MIAMI LAKES (Coach Mario Morffy, 4th year, 25-25). Last year: 5-18. Top players: OF-P Alejandro Llerena, Sr.; C David Rodriguez, So.; P-OF Dario Gonzalez, Jr.; 1B Julio Santana, Jr.; UT Kalen Siddiqui, So.; SS-P David Green, Jr.
4. NORTH MIAMI BEACH (Coach Alex Rodriguez, 4th year, 20-33). Last year: 6-11. Top players: INF-P Danny Perez, Sr.; C-P Eliakin Brown, Jr.; INF-P Jose Guillama, Jr.; INF-P Jesus Morel, Jr.
1. MATER ACADEMY (Coach Michael DiRosa, 2nd year, 20-8). Last year: 20-8 (State champions). Top players: OF Danny Reyes, Sr.; RHP Kevin Fuentes, Sr.; SS Deyvid Silva, Sr.; 3B Lazaro Rodriguez, Sr.; 1B Chris Cabrera, Sr.; LHP Luis Labarta, Sr.
2. BELEN JESUIT (Coach Jerry Albert, 4th year at BEL, 16th overall, 236-160). Last year: 22-8 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: P Pablo Arevalo, Jr.; CF Christian Del Castillo, Jr.; C Marcos Perez, Sr.; P Mike Gomez, Sr.; OF Tonito Galvez, Sr.; SS C.J. Vazquez, So.
3. TERRA (Coach Ernie Padron, 1st year at TERRA, 25th overall). Last year: 14-8. Top players: RHP Frankie Bartow, Sr.; INF Yasser Santana, Sr.; INF Ozzie Millet, Jr.; 1B-LHP Alexis Valladares, Sr.; INF Nick Lopez, Sr.; OF Nick Wydler, Sr.; LHP Joe Sanchez, So.; C Lucas Perez, Jr.; OF-1B Lance Curtis.
4. MIAMI SPRINGS (Coach Willie Vazquez, 3rd year at MS, 6th overall, 76-57). Last year: 17-10 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: P David Cervantes, Jr.; P Dylan Carter, Jr.; OF Victor Perez, Sr.
5. DORAL (Coach Ralph Suarez, 1st year at DA, 17th overall, 394-109-7). Last year: 17-9. Top players: C Carlos Pino, Sr.; SS Miguel Casanueva, Sr.; 3B Andres Valbuena, Sr.; P Eddie Escribano, Sr.; P Anthony Perez, Sr.; P Christian Cuba, Sr.
6. GOLEMAN (Coach Jose Lopez, 4th year at GOL, 8th overall, 32-18). Last year: 14-11 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: SS Erick Delgado, Sr.; OF Kevin Gomez, Sr.; OF Justin Barreneche, Sr.; P Michael Pelaez, Sr.; C Kevin Perez, Jr.
7. JACKSON (Coach Rafael Jiron, 2nd year at JAC, 6th overall). Last year: 3-16. Top players: RHP-1B Dariel Santana, Sr.; 3B Kerlin Mateo, Jr.; C Gio Ocampo, Jr.; OF Joel Rivera, Jr.; OF-SS Francisco Brenes, Sr.; RHP Yoilan Hernandez, Sr.
8. MOURNING (Coach Ed Bonilla, 4th year at ATM, 8th overall, 27-43). Last year: 8-16. Top players: OF-P Marcel Guadarrama, Jr.; P Brandon Rios, Jr.; OF Aaron Petrash, Sr.; OF Alex Perez, Sr.; SS-P Jim Varona, So.; C Max Liff, So.
9. CAROL CITY (Coach Randy Rodriguez, 2nd year, 0-10). Last year: 0-10. Top players: 1B-P Wesley Gaines, Sr.; SS-P Ayeobele Randolph, Jr.
1. GULLIVER (Coach Javy Rodriguez, 7th year, 124-45). Last year: 19-9 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: RHP Alex Valverde, Sr.; RHP Davis Brown, Sr.; SS Javy Valdes, Jr.; C Pedro Pages, Jr.; OF Brian Nido, Sr.; 2B Oscar Marchena, Sr.
2. ST. BRENDAN (Coach Luis Padron, 2nd year at StB, 72-19). Last year: 10-14-1 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: RHP Hugo Casillas, Sr.; RHP Carlos Marrero, Jr.; 3B Max Guzman, Sr.; OF Christian Martin, Sr.; INF Luis Padron, Jr.; INF Tyler Paige, Sr.; OF-1B Nico Lares, Sr.
3. FLORIDA CHRISTIAN (Coach Chris Brigman, 3rd year, 37-18). Last year: 20-8 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: OF Ruben Someillan, Jr.; INF Brandon Chinea, Jr.; INF Jorge Iza, Jr.; C Robert Fabelo, Jr.; INF Seve Rodriguez, Sr.; P Alex Nodarse, Sr.
4. MONSIGNOR PACE (Coach Tom Duffin, 16th year at MP, 22nd overall, 313-121-1). Last year: 8-18. Top players: OF-RHP Lorenzo Hampton, Sr.; C Andres Sanchez, So.; INF Leroy Garcia, Sr.; INF Eddie Cutillas, Sr.; INF Jorge Arenas, Jr.; RHP John Merrill, Jr.
5. LA SALLE (Coach Hernan Adames, 1st year at LS, 5th overall, 31-37). Last year: 13-13. Top players: 3B Santos Grande, So.; C George Fernandez, Jr.; 1B Mario Sanchez, Sr.; LHP Branden Blanco, Sr.; RF Eric Hazday, Sr.; INF Danny Rodriguez, Jr.
6. MATER LAKES (Coach Cesar Temes). Last year: 14-12. Top players: P Jesus Hernandez, Sr.; P Felipe Perez, Sr.; SS Marlon Romero, Sr.; OF-P Christian Santana, Jr.; P Ricky Hernandez, Sr.
7. RANSOM EVERGLADES (Coach Kenny Perez, 1st year). Last year: 4-18. Top players: C David Lanster, Sr.; P-1B Ryan Moralejo, Jr.; SS-P Chris Rossi, Sr.; INF Ricky Suarez, Jr.; INF-OF Mike McBrayer, 8th; P-OF Jack Archer, Fr.
1. WESTMINSTER CHRISTIAN (Coach Emil Castellanos, 9th year, 183-57-5). Last year: 25-4 (Regional finalist). Top players: INF Julian Infante, Sr.; P Ryan Terry, Sr.; C Jakob Zarello, Jr.; OF Adrian Mayans, Sr.; P Isaiah Musa, Sr.; OF Alvaro Valdez, Jr.
2. SLAM ACADEMY (Coach Alfonso Otero, 1st year). Last year: 19-5-1. Top players: P-1B Andrew Velez, Sr.; OF Brian Frias, Jr.; INF-SS Jeter Downs, So.; C-1B Adrian Del Castillo, Fr.; 1B-C-DH Jose Garcia, So.; INF-2B Andres Santana, So.
3. WESTWOOD CHRISTIAN (Coach Julio Andrade, 2nd year, 13-10). Last year: 13-10 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: CF Brandon Nayor, Sr.; 3B Sean Acevedo, Sr.; SS Kenny Prado, Sr.; P Alexis Viart, So.; P Nick Mejias, Jr.; C Matthew Fernandez, Jr.
4. PALMER TRINITY (Coach Donnie Harvey, 15th year at PT, 18th overall, 287-285). Last year: 15-8. Top players: 3B-C Blake Miller, Jr.; CF Nick Font, Sr.; SS Jarrett Pico, Jr.; C Evan Steinman, Sr.; P-OF Matt Roberts, Sr.; P-1B Taylor Walker, Sr.
5. ARCHBISHOP CARROLL (Coach Andy Blanco, 1st year at AC, 2nd overall, 16-11). Last year: 14-13 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: SS-P Sal Lorenzo, So.; OF Bryant Austin, Sr.; C Matt Quieuti, Sr.
6. DADE CHRISTIAN (Coach Richard Cook, 1st year). Last year: 14-10 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: C Paul McIntosh, Jr.; RHP-3B Hector Rodriguez, Sr.; RHP-OF Phillip Edwards, Sr.; RHP-INF Zack Langenberg, Jr.; LHP-CF David Diaz, Jr.; INF-OF-RHP Garrett Sheffield, So.
7. MIAMI COUNTRY DAY (Coach Chuck Sennett, 11th year, 95-126). Last year: 6-16. Top players: P-C-INF Juztin Gross, Jr.; P-OF Jose Oronoz, Jr.; P-SS Jordan Sale, So.; P-OF Colton Katcher, So.; C-INF-OF Austin Pollak, Fr.; P-INF Kian Andersen, Fr.
8. ARCHBISHOP CURLEY (Coach Jerry Yeash, 35th year). Last year: 1-23. Top players: 3B-1B Jordi Herrera, Jr.; SS-P Yordangel Gonzalez, Fr.; SS-P David Diaz, So.; C-1B Brian Lopez, So.; C-P Jose Pena, So.; OF Steven Garcia, Fr.
1. BRITO (Coach Pedro Guerra). Last year: 21-8 (State champions). Top players: P-1B Marcos Bolanos, Jr.; SS Richard Nunez, Jr.; LHP J.C. Valdes, Jr.
2. MIAMI CHRISTIAN (Coach Chris Cuadra, 3rd year at MC, 6th overall). Last year: 8-13 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: OF Laz Gonzalez, Sr.; P J.C. Llaser, Sr.; C-1B Jaime Gonzales, Sr.; SS-2B Sebi Dayoub, Jr.; C-OF-P Jonathan Bermudez, Sr.; P Brian Vieites, Jr.