A look up and down the Monsignor Pace’s roster is a who’s who of baseball talent.
On Thursday afternoon, a backup to several of those stars took center stage with the Spartans’ season on the line.
And sophomore outfielder Darian Fumero delivered.
Fumero followed up junior pitcher and University of Miami commit Yordani Carmona’s two-out double with one of his own in the top of the seventh inning to deliver the go-ahead run in a 4-3 victory for Pace over Avon Park in the Class 5A state semifinal at Hammond Stadium.
Fumero entered the game two innings earlier when junior Michael Machin, another UM commit, left the game after accidentally having his finger stepped on while sliding into the bag at first while trying to avoid getting picked off.
“It was my first pitch and I just wanted to put the bat on the ball,” Fumero said.
Fumero, who has four saves and a 0.93 ERA in 15 innings this season, will likely be in the spotlight again on Saturday if Machin is unable to go. Pace coach Tom Duffin said Fumero would get the call on the mound against Jacksonville Bolles in the Class 5A state championship game at 12:35 p.m.
The Spartans, who lost to Bolles in the 2016 final in nine innings, are aiming to win their seventh state title and first since 2006.
“I always say, I don’t keep players on our team that can’t contribute,” Duffin said. “Darian has done his job all year, so today was nothing new to us.”
Carmona, Machin, Victor Mederos, who belted a two-run home run in the second inning to give Pace a little bit of a cushion, are among nine players that are either committed to or have already signed with the Hurricanes.
Two more UM commits put together Pace’s first run in the first inning when sophomore Sammy Infante tripled and senior Michael Montes drove him in with a sacrifice fly.
The last two times Pace played in the state finals it lost both in extra innings. The Spartans also played a pair of 1-0 games in 2016 when they last reached the final four.
The Spartans appeared to be on their way to extra innings after coughing up an early 3-0 lead as Avon Park scored a run in the third off Carmona and tied the game on a two-run homer by his counterpart Josh Rivera. It was the first home run Carmona allowed this season.
“I fell behind in the count and had to come back with the fastball and missed high and he got a hold of it,” Carmona said.
But with two outs, Carmona set the table by roping a double to left center. Carmona, who finished with eight strikeouts in six innings, pitched at state for the first time since pitching as a freshman in 2016 at Archbishop McCarthy.
“I was pumped to pitch again at state,” Carmona said. “I did everything I could to get this team to the finals. We’re playing good baseball right now and we just have to keep it rolling.”
Cardinal Gibbons’ senior middle hitter J.T. Martin and coach Mike Zarate were each honored as the state’s Player and Coach of the Year respectively by the Florida Dairy Farmers Association this week.
The honors come as no surprise after the two were instrumental in leading the Chiefs to an unbeaten season and their first state championship since 2005.
Martin, a Pepperdine University signee, recorded 222 kills (.787 hitting percentage) and 91 blocks. Zarate finished his 10th year coaching Gibbons and has led the Chiefs to the state final four in consecutive seasons.