Stoneman Douglas baseball coach Todd Fitz-Gerald reacts after his team earned a trip to the state finals for the first time in history
It might have taken 23 years and 36 regional games, but the Stoneman Douglas baseball team is finally headed to the state final four.
Douglas, traditionally one of the best teams in South Florida, finally punched its ticket to the finals after Colton Welker smacked a solo homer over the fence in left to lift the Eagles to a 2-1 win over host Jupiter in the Region 3-9A championship.
With Brandon Kaminer on the mound, the one-run cushion was all the Eagles (25-2) really needed.
Douglas, which has been playing since 1993 and has lost four regional finals prior to Tuesday, will appear in its first state semifinal game next week at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers.
“I can’t tell you what it means because words can’t describe it,” said Douglas coach Todd Fitz-Gerald, who previously won a state title at American Heritage.
“It’s been so long since we’ve been back. These kids are so resilient. We just find a way. There’s no quit in these guys.”
Douglas and Jupiter were locked in a pitcher’s duel as starters Kaminer and Zak Sprankle were terrific.
Sprankle looked to get out of the sixth unscathed after putting the first two Douglas batters down. Yet down 3-1 in the count to Welker, Sprankle put a fastball right down the middle of the plate and Welker deposited it over the high fence.
“He got behind in the count and I heard their coach yell ‘challenge him!,’ ” said Welker, who is signed with UM but is expected to be a high draft pick next month.
“I dug in and knew it was going to be a fastball. It was nice to see a fastball.”
Down 1-0, Douglas was sat in order for the first three innings but finally got to Sprankle in the fourth, loading the bases with no outs on a pair of singles and a walk.
The Eagles tied the score with two outs when Josh Miaskowski came home on a deep sacrifice fly from John McKenna to right.
Jupiter took a brief 1-0 lead in the third when Douglas picked off Brandyn Ward at first and caught him in a rundown. Ramon Machado was leading off third after walking to lead off the inning and raced home, sliding under the tag of catcher Chad McDaniel.
“This is one of the best feelings of my life,” Welker said. “It’s an amazing feeling, we’ve talked about it every day. It’s a blessing.”
▪ Region 4-6A Final - Archbishop McCarthy 8, Rockledge 1: Archbishop McCarthy freshman pitcher Yordani Carmona may not have started the season as the team’s ace, but following another outstanding and impressive performance on Tuesday night, he sure is now.
Facing No. 5 Max Preps nationally-ranked Rockledge and Florida State-bound pitcher Drew Parrish in a Region 4-6A final with a trip to the state final four on the line, the task was a daunting one for the defending state champion Mavericks even though they themselves were ranked No. 13 in the country.
But, after a little bit of a rocky first inning, Carmona settled down and pitched six innings of near perfect baseball and with plenty of run support, McCarthy (27-2) defeated Rockledge by a surprisingly easy 8-1 final at Rockledge High School.
And with that, the Mavericks head back to an all-too familiar place, JetBlue Park in Fort Myers where they will take on Citra North Marion, an upset winner over Tampa Jesuit in the opposite bracket, on Wednesday, May 18 at a time to be determined.
McCarthy, which won a state record four straight state titles from 2010-13, will be looking to be the first team to win six titles in a seven year stretch.
“Rockledge is a really good club and I just knew I had to go out there and get it done tonight,” said Carmona who stepped into the team’s number one role when junior and UM commit Daniel Federman experienced arm troubles early in the season and hasn’t been back on the mound since. “I knew my teammates were counting on me. I struggled a little in that first inning and was leaving some stuff out over the plate but started nailing down my location after that.”
After giving up three hits and a run in the first inning to fall behind 1-0, Carmona settled in retired the next 13 Rockledge batters in a row. He gave way to Johnny Leone who came in in the seventh and retired the side in order.
“We have not more rookies on this team and that is what we expect now from Yordani,” said McCarthy head coach Rich Bielski. “He’s done it all year long. So composed for a freshman, like he’s been doing it all his life. He might’ve left a few pitches out over the plate in that first inning but he really settled down, started hiting his spots and found a nice groove after that.”
Rockledge (28-2) hit Carmona hard in the first inning with two singles and double to the left center field fence. Had it not been for shortstop Kobe Lopez’s unassisted 6-0-3 double play, Rockledge might’ve done more damage than just a single run.
The Mavericks had an immediate answer for Rockledge’s first inning run when they plated a pair of runs off Florida State-bound Rockledge starter Drew Parrish in the top of the second.
After Joe Perez flied out to start the inning, Ubaldo Lopez drew a walk and stole second. He then came around to score when Adan Fernandez, who finished the night 4-for-4 with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored along with a spectacular diving catch in right field, drove a shot to the left field fence for a double.
After advancing to third on a wild pitch, Fernandez scored when Jake Holland bounced a grounder to shortstop that Kevin Clanton couldn’t handle.
McCarthy opens things up and gave Carmona plenty of breathing room when the Mavericks scored three more in the fifth. After A.J. Hendricks greeted Parrish with a frozen rope shot to right center for a triple to lead off the inning, he scored on a Kobe Lopez single. After an infield single by Alex Carballo and a perfectly executed doubles steal, he and Lopez both came home on a Joe Perez single to left.
“He’s (Parrish) a tough pitcher but we feel we can hit anybody at anytime,” said Fernandez. “We just all did a good job with pitch recognition This is such a great feeling because we really want to send the seniors out with another ring so off we go to Fort Myers again to hopefully get that done.”
▪ Region 4-5A Final — Monsignor Pace 9, Pompano Beach 3:Monsignor Pace (26-4) scored eight runs in the first four innings to defeat host Pompano Beach (20-9) and advance to state.
“We have to stay hungry. Being the underdog makes it so much better, but we need to go out there and play our game,” said pitcher Chris Rodriguez, who pitched into the seventh inning with 12 strikeouts.
Bryan Diaz started the scoring for Pace with a solo home run to deep center in the first.
With two men out in the fourth, the Spartans scored five runs. The most surprising run came from Jonathan Reyes-Diaz who beat a rundown between third and home. He then noticed home was uncovered and sprinted in for a run.
The Spartans will face Bishop Moore in the state semifinal on May 18.
MP 2 0 1 5 1 0 0 - 0 9 0
PB 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 - 0 5 3
WP: Chris Rodriguez 12 K. (11-2) LP: Trevor Kniskern 5 K. (5-3). Bryan Diaz 2-3, HR, 2B.
▪ Region 4-7A Final - Belen Jesuit 5, Dwyer 4: Belen Jesuit blew two two-run leads, but the Wolverines are heading back to the state semifinals for the first time since 2007 after beating host Dwyer 5-4 in eight innings in the Region 4-7A championship Tuesday night.
Andrew Hernandez plated the winning run with a sacrifice bunt that brought home CJ Vazquez with one out in the eighth. After blowing a two-run lead in the seventh, Albert Maury shut down Dwyer in the eighth inning for Belen’s first regional title in nearly a decade.
Belen’s 4-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh quickly evaporated on a two-run single up the middle by Danny Lynch. The Panthers (20-10) nearly won the game later in the inning following a single into right field, but outfielder Alex Falla threw out pinch runner Ryan West at the plate to send it into extras.
The Wolverines (19-11) took an early 2-0 lead in the first but the Panthers came back to tie it with a pair of runs in the third inning. Belen only had five hits all night with two of them coming in the first inning.
Belen battled a pair of highly regarded pitchers after four innings of work from starter Colton Rendon. Florida State commit Tyler Ahearn came in for Dwyer and gave up two runs in the fifth, while Hernandez laid down his winning bunt with South Carolina commit Shane Roberts on the mound.
Right-handed pitcher Pablo Arevalo handled the Dwyer lineup for five innings before leaving to a standing ovation by a boisterous Belen contingent in the sixth. Maury took over in the sixth with a man on second and no outs but escaped the jam without giving up a run.
Belen will play Gaither in the state semifinals at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers on May 19.
BEL 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 - 5 5 1
DWY 0 0 2 0 0 0 2 0 - 4 13 3
▪ Region 4-8A Final - Westland Hialeah 3, Delray Atlantic 0: In just its ninth season in existence, Westland Hialeah is making and appearance in the state baseball finals. It wasn't easy for the upstart program, needing nine innings to defeat host Atlantic Delray in the Region 4-8A championship 3-0.
Giovanni Arriera and Brian Lavastida combined on the shut out for the Wildcats, holding the Eagles to just 3 hits.
It was, however, their bats that propelled Westland to a berth in Tampa.
Atlantic's only threat in the game came in the the bottom of the 8th, with a runner on 3rd. But, Lavastida struck out Justin Varisco. As baseball heroics usually workout, Lavastida led off the ninth inning with a ground ball the Eagles infield couldn't handle. Following a stolen base, Lavastida scored from second base on a wild pitch for the go-ahead run.
"He's one of the best competitors I know," said Wildcats head coach Joe Alvarez.
Up 2-0, Alvarez put Arriera, who pitched 6 innings and allowed 2 hits, back in the game to pinch hit, ripping an RBI single for a 3-0 lead.
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