Every high school baseball player loves seeing a ball they hit sail over the fence for a home run.
But at Goleman, hitting the ball the shortest of distances effectively is a requirement.
“Bunting is something we practice since before the season,” Goleman coach Jose Lopez said. “Every guy in our lineup — one through nine — knows if they don’t know how to lay the ball down when they have to they can’t be in this lineup.”
A prolific Gators team that had scored 198 runs entering Thursday night’s GMAC championship game and belted 60 extra-base hits laid down three bunt singles that were pivotal during a 6-2 victory over Westland Hialeah at Southwest High.
Goleman (23-2) scored five combined runs in the first two innings to come away with its first GMAC title since 2003 and third in school history. Westland Hialeah (16-9) was making its first appearance in a GMAC final.
The game marked the first meeting in the GMAC final between schools north of Flagler Street since Goleman beat Miami Beach in 2000.
“It’s hard to win this with all the good teams there are in this county,” said Lopez, who was an assistant coach on the 2003 GMAC championship team that beat a Braddock team that featured Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Sean Rodriguez. “It’s a pleasure to be able to celebrate this and bring the championship back to our school. We jumped ahead early and that gave us a little breathing room so it wasn’t as stressful as it usually is for us.”
Goleman senior catcher Kevin Perez put the Gators ahead quickly in the bottom of the first inning when he belted a two-run double to right center field to give Goleman a 2-0 lead. Juan Lugo’s infield single drove in a third run in the first.
Westland Hialeah answered with a run in the top of the second, and then Goleman played some great “small ball” to extend its lead.
After senior Jeremie Garcia was hit by a pitch with one out, senior Thomas Hernandez reached on a bunt up the third base line that was followed by a traditional single to right field by junior Ramid Alvarez.
Senior Brandon Paez dragged a bunt up the third base line, and Garcia evaded the tag by Westland Hialeah catcher Jorge Diaz to score and give Goleman a 5-1 lead.
“We don’t like slowing down,” Perez said. “We play with a high tempo.”
Goleman starting pitcher Adrian Garrastazu pitched around trouble in the second and fifth innings, allowing only one run in each of those frames to finish with a complete game. The junior lefty improved to 4-0 for the season.
The Gators enter next week’s district playoffs as the top-seed and confident they can compete statewide in a tough Class 6A bracket that includes one of the nation’s best in Archbishop McCarthy.
“This is a huge confidence booster for us going into districts and hopefully we can take over from here,” Perez said. “We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing all year and I think we can be great.”
WH 010 010 0 – 2 5 1
GOL 320 001 x – 6 9 1
WP: Adrian Garrastazu (4-0). LP: Alex Ayala (3-2).