Alex Toral was tired of getting walked.
So with Archbishop McCarthy’s run of baseball state championships in growing jeopardy, Toral tied the score with one swing.
And an inning later, Toral and a few of his teammates didn’t need any mighty swings to finish off a 5-1 comeback victory over Tampa Jesuit in the Class 6A state championship game Saturday afternoon at Hammond Stadium.
“I knew I had to come up clutch for my team,” said Toral, McCarthy’s first baseman and MLB draft prospect who was walked 28 times this season, including two in Saturday’s game. “I’ll remember that at-bat forever.”
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Archbishop McCarthy (29-2), ranked No. 2 nationally by multiple polls, secured its third consecutive state championship and seventh in the past eight seasons.
McCarthy’s national title hopes are uncertain with top-ranked Shawnee High of Oklahoma having finished a 40-0 season. But the Mavericks scored a quality win in the semifinals after beating Lynn Haven Mosley, ranked No. 3 by MaxPreps.
McCarthy now owns the longest and second-longest championship streaks in state history, having won four in a row from 2010-2013 as well as its current streak matched only by Miami Westminster Christian (1996-1998).
The Mavericks were the only Miami-Dade or Broward team to win a state title this season—the first time that’s happened since 2007.
Archbishop McCarthy coach Rich Bielski won his ninth state title as a coach, having won two previously at Hialeah. His total ranks second in state history behind Rich Hofman (10).
“What a ride,” Bielski said. “If it’s a dream, I never want to wake up from it.”
The Mavericks had trouble hitting Jesuit starting pitcher Jeff Hakanson, a UCF signee who made his second career start, scoring only once on Toral’s RBI single in the sixth.
Hakanson exited after that inning after throwing 107 pitches, which exceeded the state’s pitch count rule.
Senior Price Sartor walked the first two batters of the seventh – A.J. Hendricks and Michael Machin – and a sacrifice bunt by J.T. Thompson put them in scoring position. Alejandro Macario reached base after hitting a grounder to first baseman Jake Jones after he threw to home plate, but McCarthy’s runners stayed put, loading the bases.
Mavericks’ shortstop Luis Tuero walked to score the go-ahead run. Senior reliever Drew Martin didn’t make things better for Jesuit by hitting catcher Andrew Fernandez with a pitch to force in a third run, and walking Toral to make it 4-1 for McCarthy. The Mavericks added a fifth run on a sacrifice fly by Adan Fernandez.
Senior pitcher Johnny Leone started the state title game for McCarthy for the second year and gave up one run in six innings, striking out five and walking one.
The lone run came in a wild fourth inning that could have been worse for the Mavericks.
Leone gave up a single to Thomas Bencivenga and a double to Alex Mocny that gave Jesuit (25-7) runners on second and third with one out. Senior Mitchell Thrower followed with a single that gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Jesuit catcher Garrett Sheppard then attempted a safety squeeze bunt, but missed the pitch. With Mocny halfway down the third base line, he was caught in a rundown and was tagged out by Andrew Fernandez, who then appeared to throw out the runner from second who tried to advance as well. But the call was later overturned, allowing the inning to continue with two outs and a runner at third.
Leone came up with a big strikeout on the next at-bat to keep the deficit 1-0. Reliever Mark Diaz closed out the game with a perfect seventh inning.
“The last start of my senior year couldn’t have gone any better,” Leone said. “Toral and I were talking all game long and he said keep going and I’ll get you a run. I couldn’t have asked more from my teammates.”
STATE BASEBALL FINALS
Class 9A: Orange City University vs. Orlando Timber Creek, inc.
Class 8A: Tallahassee Lincoln vs. Oviedo Hagerty, inc.
Class 7A: Ponte Vedra Beach Nease 11, Tampa King 1
Class 6A: Archbishop McCarthy 5, Tampa Jesuit 1
Class 5A: Jacksonville Bolles 7, Orlando Bishop Moore 2
Class 4A: Clearwater Calvary Christian 11, Pensacola Catholic 1 (6)
Class 3A: Fort Myers Canterbury 4, Jacksonville University Christian 1
Class 2A: Lake Worth Trinity Christian 8, Deltona Trinity Christian 3
Class 1A: Trenton 3, Madison County 2