Douglas didn’t want the celebration to end.
After being presented their medals and trophy, the Eagles huddled in the outfield and cheered as their coaches ran and slid as if stealing a base right into the middle of the team’s celebratory semicircle.
Hard to blame them for getting a little carried away.
After a quarter-century of coming close, Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School finally finished the job and secured the school’s first state championship with a 3-0 win over Miami Columbus in the Class 9A final at JetBlue Park.
It was the first meeting between Miami-Dade and Broward County schools in a state baseball final since 2010 and the fourth all time.
Douglas (27-2), ranked third nationally by MaxPreps, became only the fifth Broward public school to win a state title, joining Flanagan, Nova, Cypress Bay and Fort Lauderdale. The Eagles also completed a 3-for-3 sweep at state this season for Broward following Archbishop McCarthy’s and Calvary Christian’s triumphs earlier in the tournament.
“I felt like it was destined for us and we wouldn’t be denied,” Douglas shortstop Colton Welker said. “I love these guys and I love coach Fitz and this one was for him. This is the greatest thing in the world.”
“Fitz” is Douglas coach Todd Fitz-Gerald, who won a state championship in 2008 at Plantation American Heritage and was hired at Douglas five years ago. He achieved a personal milestone by becoming the first coach in Broward to win a state title at more than one school.
One of his assistant coaches, Rich Hofman, knows all about winning state titles. The legendary coach, who owns a state-record 10 championships, could not attend the game because of a family event but was able to watch it from North Carolina.
Columbus (21-10) came up short in its bid to win back-to-back state championships for the first time in school history. The Explorers finished state runner-up for the fourth time in what was their 10th state final four.
The solid pitching of senior and FIU signee Andy Arguelles and excellent defense helped Columbus, which had only three starters with playing experience from last year’s team, overcome some rough patches to return to Fort Myers.
“I thought we made some great defensive plays again and [starting pitcher] Dominick [Diaz] made some good pitches to keep around,” Columbus coach Joe Weber said. “We couldn’t get that clutch hit and we managed only three hits. It’s hard to win like that.”
Douglas senior pitcher Brady Norris experienced the rare feeling of closing out both state victories for his team.
A day after recording a save in the Eagles’ semifinal win against Winter Garden West Orange, Norris tossed a three-hit shutout, struck out four and walked two on 76 pitches.
Columbus left six on base, including a situation with runners on second and third and one out in the top of the fifth with the game scoreless. Norris induced Matt Alfonso to ground out back to the mound and Mike Fernandez to fly out to end the threat.
“[Norris] pounded the strike zone a lot and mixed his pitches really well,” Columbus right fielder Hernen Sardinas said. “We were a little out in front and he used that to his advantage.”
Norris was vital, along with junior lefty starter Brandon Kaminer (12-0), in stabilizing the Eagles’ pitching staff following the early season injury of ace Jesus Luzardo.
A scoreless stalemate between Norris and Columbus starter Dominick Diaz finally ended when left fielder Kyle Shay and third baseman Ivan Nunez (the seventh and eighth hitters in Douglas’ lineup) came through with back-to-back, run-scoring hits with two outs in the bottom of the sixth.
With runners on second and third, Shay lined a single to left field that drove in pinch runner Joseph Bullion, who replaced Chad McDaniel after he singled to start the inning. Moments later, Nunez doubled down the left-field line to bring home first baseman John McKenna and shortstop Colton Welker, who also singled earlier in the inning.
Fittingly, Welker, a University of Miami commit and one of Douglas’ captains, fielded the final out that set off the celebration.
“You can work hard and do everything you have to do in practice, and sometimes the ball doesn’t roll your way,” Welker said. “I feel like the man above saw all our hard work and that we wouldn’t be denied.”
COL 000 000 0 – 0 3 1
MSD 000 003 x – 3 7 1
WP: Brady Norris (7-0). LP: Dominick Diaz (3-2).
State baseball finals
Class 9A: Douglas 3, Columbus 0
Class 8A: Lutz Steinbrenner vs. Oviedo Hagerty, inc.
Class 7A: Tampa Gaither 2, Venice 1 (8).
Class 6A: Archbishop McCarthy 10, Lynn Haven Mosley 4
Class 5A: Jacksonville Bolles 1, Monsignor Pace 0 (9)
Class 4A: Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian 12, Fort Myers Bishop Verot 1
Class 3A: Fort Myers Canterbury 2, Tallahassee Maclay 1 (11)
Class 2A: Lake Worth Trinity Christian 12, Jacksonville Christ’s Church 1
Class 1A: Mayo Lafayette 2, Chiefland 0