In two games at Marlins Park, Alex Toral has slugged more homers – three – than all but four Marlins players have all year, home or road.
Toral, a 6-1, 215-pound junior first baseman who bats third for Archbishop McCarthy, didn’t just float a couple of balls barely over the wall. Two of his shots reached the upper deck - one last year against Somerset and one this season vs. Mater Lakes.
Since the Mater Lakes game, Toral has been walked repeatedly. He has 32 bases on balls this season, 10 more than his next closest teammate.
“Nobody wants to pitch to Toral,” said Joe Perez, who bats fourth in McCarthy’s order.
Toral, a left-handed hitter and a University of Miami recruit, is hitting .309 with a .543 on-base percentage and is a big reason why McCarthy has reached the Class 6A state semifinals.
The Mavericks (27-2), who are ranked No. 1 in the South and No. 4 in the nation by USA Today, are seeking their sixth state title in the past seven years. They will play the North Marion Colts on Wednesday at 1 p.m. at Jet Blue Park in Fort Myers.
North Marion (22-8) surely knows all about Toral’s power. Expect more walks on Wednesday – intentionally or otherwise.
“He’s getting pitched more carefully than any other kid in the state,” said Rich Bielski, the coach of McCarthy’s dynasty. “He’s showing patience and taking walks. But that’s tough for a 17-year-old kid.”
Toral’s father, Alex Sr., was a basketball player at Hialeah High. But his son has been carrying around a bat since he was a toddler.
First it was a plastic bat. And now that he swings a real one with tremendous force, it can be frustrating when pitchers, in effect, take the stick out of his hands.
Alex Sr. worries about what all those walks are doing to his son’s timing. But Toral, who has a 4.2 grade-point average, seems to be handling it just fine.
“It’s a good thing pitchers are getting me on base,” Toral said. “My teammates have the ability to drive me in – I trust my lineup.”
With Toral on base more than half the time, it’s no surprise that Perez, hitting right behind him, leads the team with 33 RBIs.
Perez, who played the past two years at American Heritage, has been best friends with Toral since age seven, and the two finally joined forces this season.
“Pitchers are throwing me junk trying to get me to chase,” Toral said. “But I have Joe behind me, and he always drives the ball.”
Toral, who may never play for the Hurricanes because pro scouts are eyeing him as a potential first-round pick in 2017, still gets pitched to occasionally.
It happened in a 4-3 win over Heritage in a regional semifinal when Toral turned on a hanging changeup, driving it to right-center for his fourth homer of the season.
Because of all the walks, that solo blast was his first homer in 22 games.
“It was about time,” Toral said. “It felt emotionally great, knowing you got a hold of one against a great team that beat us in the district finals.”
Could there be more Toral fireworks on Wednesday?
That will depend on North Marion pitchers, of course, and whether they want to test their luck.
If you go
What: The state baseball finals.
When: Wednesday through Saturday.
Where: jetBlue Park, 11500 Fenway South Drive, Fort Myers.
Admission: $9 per day; Parking: $10 for cars; $50 for fan buses.
Wednesday’s schedule – Class 6A semifinals: Naples Barron Collier vs. Lynn Haven Mosley, 10 a.m.; Southwest Ranches Archbishop McCarthy vs. Citra North Marion, 1; Class 5A semifinals: Jacksonville Bolles vs. Melbourne Central Catholic, 4; Miami Monsignor Pace vs. Orlando Bishop Moore, 7.
Thursday’s schedule – Class 7A semifinals: Venice vs. St. Johns Creekside, 10 a.m.; Belen Jesuit vs. Tampa Gaither, 1; Class 6A final: 4:05; Class 5A final: 7:35.
Friday’s schedule – Class 9A semifinals: Parkland Douglas vs. Winter Garden West Orange, 10 a.m.; Miami Columbus vs. Tampa Alonso, 1; Class 8A semifinals: Oviedo Hagerty vs. Ocala Forest, 4; Westland Hialeah vs. Tampa Steinbrenner, 7.
Saturday’s schedule – Class 7A final: 12:35; Class 9A final: 4:05; Class 8A final: 7:35.