With a pair of University of Miami commits on the mound and a defending state champion on the field, it only figured that it would be tough to park and tough to find a seat on Tuesday night when Stoneman Douglas and Flanagan squared off at Flanagan High School in a Region 4-9A semifinal.
And in the end, it was Brandon Kaminer who won the battle of UM pitchers the Douglas ace fired a six hitter to lead the defending 9A champion Eagles to a 2-1 victory over the Falcons, outdueling Flanagan ace and fellow Hurricane commit Jeremy Cook.
And with it, Douglas, 22-4 advances to next week’s 9A regional final where the Eagles will host Jupiter on May 23 at 4 p.m.
“I dont’ know what to tell you, the kid is so special and you saw that out there tonight,” said Douglas coach Todd Fitzgerald of his senior ace. “The kid never ceases to amaze me, he just goes after it. Not only does he have great stuff but what separates him from the pack is probably how tough he is mentally. Nothing rattles him and we needed every bit of that tonight against a great team like Flanagan.”
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A perfect example of that was the last inning when, with a runner on second and two outs, Kaminer was one strike away from locking up a shutout. When Tyler Evans hit a routine ground ball to second, the Eagle dugout emptied in anticipated celebration. But the Brandon Auerbach’s throw to first was wide allowing the runner to score from second and bringing Arrison Perez to the plate as a potential winning run.
But on the second pitch, Perez hit a line drive right at Auerbach ending the game and sending the Eagle players into a second celebration, this one for real.
“When I came out here today, I knew we were facing a really good team and I was going to have to be at my best,”said Kaminer who is now 9-0 on the season and 21-0 dating back to his sophomore year. “I tried to be on my A game like always and trust my players out on the field and they did a great job out there tonight.”
After three scoreless innings, the Eagles got Kaminer the lead he needed with one swing of the bat when Spencer Dubay launched a towering solo home run over the left field fence in the fourth.
Douglas added what turned out to be the winning run in the next inning when, after Chad McDaniel hit a one out double that the Flangan left fielder lost in the lights and advanced to third on a wild pitch, scored when Rafael Santos laced a rope right at Perez, the Falcon third baseman that he coudn’t handle.
Said Fitzgerald: “It feels great to come in here tonight and get a win over a team like this on their field with so much on the line. I think having come here earlier in the year (Douglas played a preseason tournament at the school and beat Flanagan in the process) and beaten them on their field might’ve really helped us coming in here tonight and having the confidence to do it again.”
▪ Region 4-9A semifinal — Palmetto 8, South Dade 3: The Panthers (21-6) secured their first trip to the regional finals since 2007 and will host Coral Gables next Tuesday in a bid to reach the state finals for the first time since that season.
Palmetto scored five runs in the sixth inning to break a 3-3 tie. Catcher Eddy Arteaga, who went 2 for 2 delivered the big hit with a bases-clearing double. Arteaga finished with four RBI.
The Panthers were without ace Matthew Turner, who could not pitch Tuesday after he exceeded the 105-pitch limit per every seven days rule instituted by the Florida High School Athletic Association.
Junior Jake Sheeder gave up three runs but pitched five solid innings for the Panthers.
"I've got one of the best pitching staffs I've ever had," Palmetto coach Danny Smith said. "Jake stepped up on the run, pitching on only a couple of hours notice in one of the biggest games Palmetto has played in a long time. What he did was exceptional."
Nick Labrada went 2 for 4 with a run scored and two RBI. Alex Castaneda went 3 for 4 with a run scored.
ANDRE C. FERNANDEZ
▪ Region 4-7A Semifinal — Belen 4, Doral 1: Belen developed a short memory when it came to what happened during the regular season against district rival Doral Academy.
The Wolverines, thanks to a stellar effort on the mound from Danny Brown, won the one that really counted as Belen traveled to Doral’s field before an overflow crowd and promptly dispatched the Firebirds in a region semifinal.
Belen (21-6), which dropped regular season and district final contests to Doral by a combined 16-4, advances to its second straight regional final and will travel north to Palm Beach County next week (May 23) to take on either Dwyer or Jensen Beach.
Brown was virtually unhittable for the first five-innings plus but struggled down the stretch before recording a complete game six hitter while striking out seven and was the beneficiary of two great defensive plays as well.
“We were talking about it all week that this Doral team is a great team but that if you get runs on them early then you give yourself a real chance to win and that’s what we did out there today,” said Brown who watched his team hit Doral starter Oscar Trujillo for three runs in the top of the third that would give Brown all the cushion he needed. “I was getting a little gassed there at the end looking for the finish line and fortunately I got some great defense to bail me out.”
Brown spoke of two big moments. First when Doral (19-8) trailing 3-0, put together a two-out rally in the sixth putting runners on second and third when No. 3 hitter Andres Santana laced a shot between first and second that had two-RBI single written all over it.
But second baseman Armando Albert dove to his left spearing the ball, jumping up and making the throw to first to end the inning.
After Brown gave up a home run to Robert Leiva in the final inning, Gaby Gutierrez followed with a two-out base hit and looked like he was going to score on an Adrian Figueroa double off the left field fence. But a great relay from left field to shortstop to catcher cut Gutierrez down at home trying to score ending the game.
▪ Region 4-8A — St. Thomas Aquinas 3, Delray Beach Atlantic 2: Justin Varisco's homer to right with two outs in the seventh wasn't enough to spoil yet another postseason clash between Aquinas (22-5) and rival Nova (24-3) next Tuesday night in Davie.
Aquinas came into the seventh holding a two-run lead thanks in part to an RBI single by Chris Valencia in the fifth and then a rally-busting double play started by pitcher Michael Muley in the sixth.
The Raiders took a 1-0 lead in the first on a double from Craig Ruckdeschel which scored Earl Semper. Aquinas then made it 2-0 in the third on a sacrifice fly from Semper.
The winner of next Tuesday's game at Nova moves on to the state final four. Aquinas beat the Titans earlier this season.
"We're excited about moving on to next week," said Aquinas coach Troy Cameron, whose team eliminated Nova in a controversial rain game in the 2015 regional semifinals.
▪ Region 4-2A final — Trinity Christian 6, Miami Christian 0: In what was expected to be a dramatic rematch of last year’s regional final between Miami Christian and Trinity Christian, the Victors of Miami Christian (20-8) fell short in front of an electric yet devastated home crowd.
In an emotional farewell for Miami Christian, their students and fans never stopped cheering and were constantly supporting their home squad, even long after the game ended.
It appeared as if it would be a pitcher’s duel as both starters, Mario Fernandez for the Victors and Angel Tiburcio for the Warriors were locked in for the first few innings.
Fernandez struck out five over three-plus innings. But it was Trinity Christian (20-6) star pitcher Tiburcio who crushed a three-run homer to left field to break things open in top of the fourth inning.
Tiburcio, a junior, came into the game hitting .447 and now now seven home runs on the year. He also pitched a complete game shutout, striking out six and allowing only four singles.
“I’m a strong believer in pitching and defense, and they got the better of those [Tuesday],” Miami Christian coach Chris Cuadra said. “I will always be proud of this team.”
▪ Region 4-5A semifinal — Monsignor Pace 8, iMater Charter 7 (9 innings): Host Monsignor Pace let an early lead slip away against iMater, but was able to win on an error in the ninth.
The winning run was scored by Sammy Infante following a wild pitch. The catcher tried to throw him out at third, but the ball went too high and Infante was able to come home.
Pace scored three runs in the first on a home run by Santos Grande. iMater respond with three manufactured runs in the third.
Infante hit a solo home run in the fourth and two more runs followed. A home run by name put the Spartans (23-5) up 7-3.
The Knights (16-17) added two runs in the sixth on a home run by Jonathan Pacin. A sacrifice fly and wild pitch got iMater even in the seventh with the teams tied 7-7.
Pace is looking to rebound after losing the 2016 state championship game 1-0 to Bolles (Jacksonville) in extra innings. Pace will host Pompano Beach in the region final May 23.
▪ Region 4-9A Semifinal — Coral Gables 4, Coral Park 3: Coral Gables junior Nicholas Montes two-out RBI single in the ninth inning put the guest Cavaliers ahead for good, as they defeated host Coral Park in a region semifinal.
The Cavaliers (13-13), once again benefitted from a gutsy performance from senior hurler, John Kenney, throwing 6 2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs and striking out four. Senior Carson Willis threw 2 1/3 innings in relief scattering just two hits for the victory.
Cavaliers got on the scoreboard first in the second inning with an RBI infield single from sophomore shortstop Addiel Quintana scoring Juan Osorio who led off the inning with a bunt single.
Coral Gables added two runs in the third when Osorio drives in junior Brian Garcia on a fielder’s choice. Kenney helped his own cause with an RBI on a groundout to make the game 3-0.
As has been the case most of the season for the Rams (20-8), they battled back to tie the game.
Sophomore Jordan Rollins fifth inning sacrifice fly gave Coral Park their first run in the fifth. In the sixth inning, sophomore Zachary Neto started a two-out rally with double. Bran Socorro followed with an infield single, putting men on first and third when senior Axel Gomez cleared the bases with a two-run double to tie the game for the Rams at three.
Willis pitched his way out of danger twice on their way to victory. After replacing Kenney in the seventh, he pitched out of a jam leaving men on first and third. He also forced Rollins to ground out with the bases loaded to get out of the eighth inning.
▪ Region 4-3A Final — Archbishop Carroll 6, Highlands Christian 5: The Archbishop Carroll Bulldogs had done it, but not without a great deal of resilience. After running into an early 5-0 deficit, they came back with a combined six runs in the bottom of the fourth and fifth to defeat the Highlands Christian Academy Knights 6-5 in the 4-3A regional finals in Miami on Tuesday afternoon. The Bulldogs advance to the state semifinal for the second time in their history.
“This team all year long has battled back, and this is by far the most adversity they have faced, but they just did not give up,” Archbishop Carroll Coach Andy Blanco said.
The Bulldogs could get nothing going right. Senior starting pitcher Salvatore Lorenzo-Lugo, who had thrown a complete game in their previous matchup, was struggling to contain the Knights batters, and the offense could not get hits on the opposing pitcher’s fastball.
But everything changed in the bottom of the fourth and fifth.
Archbishop Carroll senior Jonathan Leon connected on his eighth home run of the year that scored two runs. Suddenly, Highlands Christian starting pitcher Gregoor Moesker, who had started off on fire, began to struggle. As did the bullpen.
After scoring a run off a walk with the bases loaded and a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth, the Bulldogs found themselves down two with Lorenzo-Lugo up to bat. He connected on a two-RBI single down the first-base line to right field to give the Bulldogs the lead.
“When things get complicated, we just do out job – our team is all about that,” Lorenzo-Lugo said. “It feels great, especially since we haven’t done this in 16 years.”
Archbishop Carroll (26-2, 8-0) would hold its lead. Lorenzo finished with six strikeouts in six innings pitched and had two of the Bulldogs’ three hits on the afternoon.
Highlands Christian (10-14, 4-2) exhibited sharp pitching and fielding early but failed maintain that consistency as the day went on, walking seven betters. The Knights finished with five hits. The last time they had made the state final four was in 2010.
The Florida state semifinal will begin on Wednesday, May 24, in Fort Myers.
▪ Region 4-6A Semifinal — Archbishop McCarthy 5, Goleman 0: Mavericks senior Daniel Federman scattered four hits and struck out 10 for a complete game shutout as Archbishop McCarthy topped the Goleman Gators, 5-0, in their Region 4-6A semifinal at Alex Fernandez Field.
Archbishop McCarthy (26-2) jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning after getting four consecutive hits from the top of the order. Maverick senior Adan Fernandez added a three-run triple in the second inning giving the Mavericks all the run support they needed.
Junior shortstop Luis Tuero added three hits for Archbishop McCarthy, who will face Eau Gallie in the Regional final after defeating Merritt Island, 10-0 in their semifinal game.
Goleman Gators finish their season at 19-11.
▪ Region 4-5A Semifinal — Pompano Beach 8, Cardinal Gibbons 4: The Tornadoes (23-3) advance to the regional finals for the second consecutive season.