They may not be in the same district anymore but they are still very much in the same neighborhood and that made Wednesday afternoon’s GMAC semifinal showdown between Southwest and Coral Park plenty interesting.
And when it was over, it was the visiting Eagles, on the strength of a solid pitching performance from Mario Garcia, who came away with a convincing 8-2 victory over the Rams at Coral Park High School.
Southwest advances to its second GMAC championship game in the last three years and will host Palmetto at its field on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. after Palmetto crushed Westland Hialeah 13-0 in the other semifinal.
“We all pretty much know each other so we were all up for the game today and really wanted to win it,” said Southwest third baseman Eddie Sierra who led the way offensively for the Eagles going 3 for 4 with 2 RBI. “Once we got Mariothe early lead, we were confident we would get it done today because he’s tough out there and really can carry us.”
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Southwest (14-8-1) which last won the GMAC title in 2011, got Garcia his early lead by plating two runs in the second, an RBI single by Jordan Worley the big hit in the inning and then added two more runs in the fourth on an RBI single from Sierra and an RBI sacrifice fly from Worley.
Garcia went five-plus innings in the searing mid-afternoon heat, yielding no runs and two hits while striking out four.
The Eagles, who edged Columbus in the district to qualify for GMAC and will enter next week’s district tournament as the top seed, added three final runs in the top of the seventh to go up 8-0, a two-RBI double by Erick Mondelo the big hit.
Coral Park (15-9) scored twice off reliever Michael Piulats in the bottom of the inning to avoid the shutout.
“Playing Coral Park is always a great game because the schools are so close to each other and it’s been a great rivalry,” said Southwest coach Mandy Pelaez. “It was really hot out there today and Mario was solid all game for us. Once you get him a little lead early, which we did by playing some good small ball, he really bears down hard and gets the outs for you.”
Palmetto 13, Westland Hialeah 0
“Outback, Outback, Outback” was the battle cry from Palmetto players following their huge five-inning mercy rule win over Westland Hialeah late Wednesday afternoon in a GMAC semifinal at Walker Park in Hialeah.
“I told them before the game, beat them at least 8-2 and I’ll take all of you to Outback Steakhouse,” said Palmetto head coach Danny Smith after the game. “They obviously went well beyond that and didn’t let me forget about it either. It’ll cost me a thousand bucks but hey, they went out there and earned it today.”
Panther players must’ve been a hungry bunch as they jumped all over Westland starter Kevin Madera scoring seven times in the top of the first inning, a grand slam by Patrick Mormile the big blow.
Staked with a huge lead before he even threw one pitch, Palmetto starter and Rutgers commit Victor Valderrama dominated the rest of the way, striking out seven Wildcat batters and giving up just two hits. He also helped himself at the plate by going 3 for 3 with a double and two runs scored.
Nelson Villa (2 for 2, HR, 3 RBI and 2 runs) also had a big day.
The win advanced the Panthers (19-4) to their first GMAC title game since they last won it in 2006.
“When Victor’s on, we’re a hard team to beat,” Smith said. “And when you get him seven runs before he even steps on the mound, he’s that much tougher and you saw that today.”