The Nova baseball team isn’t used to an early wake up call, not with their school day starting later than most.
Yet, for the chance to play in the state baseball finals, the Titans will set those alarms.
“It’s an adjustment,” said coach Pat McQuaid, whose team plays a Class 8A state semifinal against Tallahassee Lincoln on Friday at 10 a.m.
“The kids are used to practicing late in the day, playing at night. It’s a change of mindset. Now we’re playing the biggest game of their life at 10 a.m.
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“Heck, we don’t even get to school until 9:30.”
It has been a while since the Titans have been to the state finals, last appearing in 2005 — the second of back-to-back state championship teams whose names are so proudly displayed above the left field wall at Pat McQuaid Field in Davie.
A talented team filled with underclassmen, the Titans weren’t a preseason favorite to make it this far.
Yet, with 26 wins and three losses, Nova has gotten better as the season has progressed and are, as any coach would hope, playing its best ball at just the right time.
Last week, Nova avenged one of its losses during the regular season by knocking off rival St. Thomas Aquinas 4-3 in a thrilling game which didn’t end until junior outfielder Isaiah Goodman singled in the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning.
Goodman kept the game tied by making a SportsCenter-worthy leaping grab up against the left field wall in the top of the inning robbing Aquinas of not only an extra-base hit, but the go-ahead run as well.
To get accustomed to playing such an early game, McQuaid had his team run a full practice Wednesday at 9 a.m.
The Titans will be back out there Thursday morning before loading up their best headed to Florida’s west coast.
“After a game like the one we had against Aquinas, you want to play right away, not sit around and wait,” said McQuaid, who is in his 44th season coaching at his high school alma mater and is taking the Titans to state for the fifth time.
“This is an exciting time for the kids, especially with what we have done this year. Hopefully we’re peaking at the right time. This is exciting. We beat our rival in a 12-inning game packed with great plays on both sides.
“Hopefully we have come down from that exhilaration and can focus on winning a state championship. They haven’t been bothered by pressure all year.”
As has been the case in all three postseason games, junior Trace Moore will start for the Titans.
Moore pitched nine innings against Aquinas before being lifted due to a state-mandated pitch count and kept his night — and his team’s seasons — going by driving in senior Gabe Paulson with the game-tying run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.
“Deep inside, I think everyone is still excited about what we did last week, but we know we need to focus on this next game,” Moore said Wednesday morning. “We’re just trying to keep this going. We have a lot of confidence.”
Said Paulson: “This is a new experience for us and I’m excited about it. I want to finish it right. I knew we could get here, we always come up big when it’s needed.”
Southridge has hired former Miami High star Marcus Barnes as its new boys’ basketball coach.
Barnes, a former guard for the Stingarees who graduated in 2000, played for the University of Miami and later professionally in Europe.
Most recently, Barnes served as an assistant coach at Westminster Christian.
Stoneman Douglas’ Robert Bryant and Dr. Krop’s Carlos Maehama were each named the Boys’ and Girls’ State Coaches of the Year. Bryant led Douglas to its first state title. Maehama led Krop to its sixth and first since 2012.
Coral Springs Charter, which became the first Broward school to win three consecutive state titles, still has a shot at being crowned national champions by MaxPreps.
The Panthers, who went 30-1 this season, are ranked No. 3 behind a pair of California teams — Norco (32-0) and Los Alamitos (26-3) each of which are still playing in that state’s postseason.
State baseball finals
When: Through Saturday.
Where: Centurylink Sports Complex — Hammond Stadium, 14100 Ben C. Pratt Six Mile Cypress Parkway, Fort Myers.
Admission: $9 in advance, $12 per day at the gate.
Parking: $10 for cars, $50 for buses.
Wednesday’s results — Class 5A: Jacksonville Bolles 2, Pompano Beach 1; Orlando Bishop Moore 8, Englewood Lemon Bay 0; Class 7A: Ponte Vedra Nease 2, Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer 1; Tampa King 3, Naples Gulf Coast 1.
Thursday’s semifinals — Class 6A: Archbishop McCarthy vs. Lynn Haven Mosley, 10 a.m.; Dunedin vs. Tampa Jesuit, 1; Class 5A championship: Bolles vs. Bishop Moore, 4:05; Class 7A championship: Nease vs. King, 7:35.
Friday’s semifinals — Class 8A semifinals: Nova vs. Tallahassee Lincoln, 10 a.m.; Sarasota vs. Oviedo Hagerty, 1; Class 9A semifinals: Miami Palmetto vs. Orange City University, 4; Jupiter vs. Orlando Timber Creek, 7.
Saturday’s finals — Class 6A: 12:35; Class 8A: 4:05; Class 9A: 7:35.