High School Sports

State baseball contenders, stacked with college and pro talent, chasing more titles

C Caleb Roberts, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr., 492, 42 RBI
C Caleb Roberts, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr., 492, 42 RBI

The road to Omaha begins later this week.

And this year’s Major League Baseball Draft is next week.

Some players that will compete at the state championship tournament that continues Wednesday in Fort Myers could find themselves playing in the College World Series in the near future.

And a few might get the chance to start their pro careers early.

Four of South Florida’s best squads, replete with such talent, hope to add to the area’s growing number of state championships.

Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian (Class 4A) and Miami Christian (Class 2A) have already secured championships.

Columbus (Class 9A), St. Thomas Aquinas (8A), Doral Academy (7A) and Monsignor Pace (5A) can join them this week.

Only two other times have there been four state champions from Miami-Dade and Broward Counties combined in the same year and only once (2014) were all four from Dade.

Here’s a look at the matchups:

Class 8A state semifinal – St. Thomas Aquinas (25-3) vs. Lakeland George Jenkins (26-3), 1 p.m., Friday: This one figures to be the most high-profile matchup in the semifinals with two of the tournament’s nationally-ranked squads colliding.

Aquinas, ranked No. 25 in the country by MaxPreps, is in the final four for the first time since 2013 and seeking its first state title since 2003 and third overall.

The Raiders have stormed through the regional playoffs outscoring their three opponents 34-1. Senior catcher Caleb Roberts, a University of North Carolina signee and possible draft pick, highlights Aquinas’ lineup. Roberts, the Miami Herald’s Class 9A-7A Player of the Year, is hitting .500 with six home runs and 49 RBI.

Aquinas has several more Division-I signees or commits including shortstop Andres Antonini (Pittsburgh), outfielder Cade Fergus (George Washington), sophomore Nate Thomas (UM commit), senior first baseman Chris Ruckdeschel (Clemson) and infielder Connor O’Hara (Florida Gulf Coast), in addition to undecided junior infielders Matt Archer and Gabriel Terry, two of the team’s top hitters.

Senior right-hander Blake Hely (Davidson) has been the Raiders’ ace going 10-2 with 90 strikeouts and a 0.69 ERA. Hely will likely match up against George Jenkins’ ace, lefty Daniel Batcher (11-0, 90 K, 0.40 ERA).

George Jenkins, ranked No. 24 by MaxPreps, is also led by FSU commit Brandon Howlett, a senior outfielder and possible draft pick that is hitting .377 with six home runs, and outfielder/lefty pitcher Brady Allen, a South Carolina commit.

Class 9A semifinal – Columbus (22-5) vs. Jupiter (17-11), 7 p.m., Friday: The Explorers advanced to state for the third time in four seasons and have a solid chance to win their third state title overall and first since 2015.

Anthony Arguelles (10-1, 1.21 ERA) has had stellar outings throughout the regional playoffs as he has outdueled his three opponents with the Explorers allowing allowing only one run during that span.

Jupiter (17-11), which advanced by beating Stoneman Douglas in the regional finals, is seeking its first state title.

Class 7A semifinal – Doral Academy (23-6-1) vs. Venice (24-8), 7 p.m., Wednesday: The Firebirds make their first appearance at state after collectively hitting 47 home runs led by senior shortstop Lency Delgado (13) and freshman outfielder Gabriel Gutierrez (12). Venice is a four-time state champion, winning two of those since 2013.

Class 5A semifinal – Monsignor Pace (22-6) vs. Avon Park (22-4-1), 1 p.m., Thursday: The Spartans, whose roster is replete with talent led by UM signees Yordani Carmona, Victor Mederos, Michael Montes and Sammy Infante, have won 12 consecutive games. Pace is chasing its seventh state title and first since 2006.

ALL-SPORTS

With its baseball team’s state championship victory on Monday afternoon, Miami Christian clinched the Miami Herald’s Boys’ Major Trophy for Classes 6A-1A for this year. The award recognizes excellence in football, basketball, baseball, soccer, wrestling and track and field. Miami Christian won a state title in boys’ basketball and baseball this season.

TENNIS

Palmetto’s Kelly Gibson was named one of the Florida Dairy Farmers Association’s Overall Coaches of the Year.

Gibson led both the Panthers’ boys’ and girls’ teams to state championships this year, marking the first time for the girls since 1986 and first time for the boys since 1996.

Doral Academy’s Justin Puppo won Class 3A Coach of the Year honors after leading the Firebirds to their first state title.

Coral Gables’ Daniel Krulig won Class 4A Player of the Year honors and Ransom Everglades’ Antonio Mora won for Class 1A after each completed unbeaten state championship seasons.

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