High School Sports

Keys Gate Charter, Coral Park baseball win HSBN March Madness championship

They didn’t exactly play in their own neighborhood but it was a battle of neighborhood rivals on Thursday night when Southwest and Coral Park traveled to Pompano Beach to square off in the Gold Bracket championship game of the HSBN March Madness Shootout at the Pompano Beach Sports Complex.

Never mind the fact that Coral Park entered the tournament as the number 14 seed out of 16 teams. When it was over, the Rams had themselves an impressive 7-2 victory over the Eagles, just 24 hours after Southwest had upset top-seeded Monsignor Pace in the semifinals.

“I can’t say enough about how these boys responded over these last few days to pull this off,” said Coral Park coach Butch Carnicero who watched his team beat No. 3 seed Killian and No. 2 St. Thomas Aquinas on the way to Thursday night’s final. “I guess being a 14 seed, we weren’t expected to be in this situation but I just told them to forget all the seeding numbers and just go out there and play and they did.”

Carnicero watched his team pound out 11 hits off Southwest pitching but it was who was on the mound for the Rams that turned in the most impressive performance of the night.

Sophomore Willie Silva took the ball and never came off the mound taking a two-hitter into the seventh inning before a pair of Eagle base hits to lead off the inning chased him. He finished with a four-hitter while recording eight strikeouts along the way. Elias Martinez came in and cleaned up the last three outs.

“I really wanted to win this championship for my team tonight,” said Silva. “They always work hard for me and came out and got me the offensive support tonight so I had to do my part. Coach told us just to forget about seed numbers next to team and just go out and play. Now this gives us a lot of momentum going into districts in a few weeks.

Coral Park (14-5), which made its deepest playoff run in more than two decades a year ago (regional finals) blew open a tight game when they plated five runs in the top of the third to take a 6-0 lead.

Jordan Rollins led the inning off with an opposite field home run to left. Erwing Fernandez followed with a base hit that he stretched into a double and scored on a error at shortstop on a dropped fly ball in left.

With three runs already in and two outs, the Rams were not done as a Zachery Neto double, a walk to Brad Socorro followed by back-to-back RBI singles from Axel Gomez and Adrian Rodiguez to complete the five run inning and stake Silva to a big six run lead.

Doubles by Justin Worley and Eddie Sierra were the only two hits Southwest (10-9) recorded before the seventh inning, Worley eventually scoring in the third on a infield groundout for one of the two Eagle runs.

▪ Keys Gate Charter 9, Westland Hialeah 7: The drive from Homestead to Pompano Beach is a long one, but the trip proved worthwhile for the Keys Gate Charter baseball team on Thursday.

The Knights, an upstart program in just its sixth year, jumped out to an early lead and then hung on to knock off Westland Hialeah in the the Black Bracket championship game of the HSBN March Madness Shootout at the Pompano Beach Sports Complex.

“When you’re a young, upstart program like we are, doing something like this is a pretty big deal,” said head coach Rich Benevides. “Myself and coach [assistant coach Kevin] Mirabel got this thing started six years ago from the ground up and our kids have really worked hard to bring success to this program.”

Keys Gate (14-5) jumped all over the Wildcats with five runs in the top of the first and led comfortably the entire game — until there were two outs with nobody on in the bottom of the seventh.

That’s when Westland (11-8) rallied to load the bases on a hit, error and walk before Jorge Diaz hit a towering grand slam just inside the left field foul pole to pull Westland within two.

But Juan Maraluanda came in and threw just one pitch, inducing a ground ball back to himself from Roly Martinez to end the game.

The big performer for Keys Gate was starting pitcher Anthony Vargas who pitched six innings scattering five hits while striking out six. But it was his bat that did the most damage as Vargas, with two on and two out, blasted a three-run homer off the left field scoreboard in the first inning.

“I just got a pitch I could handle and drove it,” said Vargas who came out after six innings with a 9-3 lead. “Walking out on the mound with a five run lead before you even throw one pitch is huge.”

Besides Diaz, Westland (11-8), which had a magical run to the state final four a year ago, was also led by Michael Uz who was 2 for 4 with a double and home run.