American has advanced to the state baseball tournament twice in four seasons under the tutelage of former major-leaguer Ricky Gutierrez.
But a championship has eluded the Patriots both times.
That drought could end this season.
With the Patriots moving down to Class 7A and returning one of their most talented rosters, their first state championship is within sight.
Gutierrez is keeping his team grounded despite the hype.
“We know a lot of eyes will be on us this year, but we aren’t focused on that,” Gutierrez said. “Our mentality is to work hard, play ball and win games.”
Last season, American’s state championship pursuit ended abruptly after the Patriots were shut out 6-0 by Plant City Durant and 2013 second-round draft pick Tyler Danish in the Class 8A state semifinals.
Eight starters and 12 seniors overall return from that team, led by a pair of Division I commitments.
Junior third baseman Roman Gonzalez hit .382 last season and is committed to the University of Miami. Senior outfielder Kevin Williams, a Kansas State commitment who hit .388 last year, leads the outfield.
The middle infield should be among the strongest groups in the county with senior shortstop Edison Cabrera and senior second baseman Eric Gonzalez (Palm Beach State College signee).
The pitching staff is led by senior Ronald Williams, another Palm Beach State College signee who anchors the rotation, which got deeper this season with transfers Mike Rodriguez and Jake Norman. Norman will mostly play first base. Rodriguez, a junior, is an early commitment to FIU.
Senior catcher Steven Alvarez, a critical part of last year’s run to the state final four, is also back.
“We are a talented group with a lot of depth,” Gutierrez said.
“With last year’s loss, my guys are hungry.”
With American gone from Class 8A, Killian, Coral Gables, Columbus and South Dade lead the pack of contenders vying for a spot at the state tournament to be held May 14-22 in Fort Myers.
Coral Gables has one of its deepest rosters in many years, led by junior shortstop Robert Montes, junior catcher Elih Marrero and junior pitcher transfer Andrew Cabezas. The Cavaliers have not advanced to state since 1995 and have only one regional playoff win since, but they have a group of 14 juniors and three sophomores with the potential to end that drought.
Killian is another team with a strong core of juniors and arguably one the best pitching staffs in the county. Right-handed juniors Keith Stevens, Frank Follaco and Vladimir Nunez, and lefty junior Ryan Granda have been dubbed “The Four Horsemen” by their teammates and anchor the Cougars, who reached the regional semifinals last season.
Columbus has seven seniors starting, including outfielder Ryan Alvarez, a UM signee; catcher Nelson Mompierre, an FIU signee; first baseman Christian Garabedian, a Maine signee; and outfielder/pitcher Gil Torres, a Nova Southeastern signee.
South Dade might have the top pitcher in Dade in FIU signee Erik Manoah, who had a 1.65 ERA with 68 strikeouts last season.
Feb. 10-14: Adidas Tournament
Feb. 10-14: Flanagan Tournament
March 24-29: Spring break tournaments
April 15-18: GMAC tournament
April 21-25: Districts
April 30-May 1: Regional quarterfinals
May 6: Regional semifinals
May 9 and 13: Regional finals
May 14-17, 19-22: State tournament in Fort Myers
DEFENDING STATE CHAMPIONS
Class 8A: Altamonte Springs Lake Brantley; 7A: Venice; 6A: Archbishop McCarthy; 5A: Ponte Vedra; 4A: Pensacola Catholic; 3A: Melbourne Central Catholic; 2A: Westwood Christian; 1A: Trenton.
PRESEASON TOP 10
3. Coral Gables
4. Westminster Christian
6. South Dade
7. Florida Christian
9. Mater Academy
10. Monsignor Pace
1. KILLIAN (Coach Angel Herrera, 9th year at KIL, 13th overall, 127-67-2). Last year: 20-9 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: C Spencer Levine, Sr.; RHP Keith Stevens, Jr.; LHP Ryan Granda, Jr.; RHP Vladimir Nunez, Jr.
2. CORAL GABLES (Coach Phil Wisser, 7th year at CG, 10th overall, 141-89). Last year: 14-11 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: SS Robert Montes, Jr.; C Elih Marrero, Jr.; RHP Andrew Cabezas, Jr.; OF German Reyes, Sr.
3. COLUMBUS (Coach Joe Weber, 17th year, 352-109). Last year: 21-5. Top players: OF Ryan Alvarez, Sr.; 1B Christian Garabedian, Sr.; C Nelson Mompierre, Sr.; OF-P Gil Torres, Sr.
4. SOUTH DADE (Coach Fred Burnside, 6th year at SD, 22nd overall, 442-152). Last year: 16-12 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: P Erik Manoah, Sr.; OF Sergio Lopez, Jr.; 3B Danny Vaughan, So.; P Jose Gorordo, Jr.
5. SUNSET (Coach Mandy Pelaez, 16th year at SUN, 18th overall). Last year: 20-7 (Regional finalist). Top players: CF-P Danilo De Armas, Sr.; OF-3B Jorge Lopez, Sr.; LHP Danny Diaz, Jr.; C Herbert Iser, So.
6. HIALEAH (Coach Jonathan Hernandez, 2nd year at HIA, 11th overall, 19-8). Last year: 19-8 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: RHP Alexis Herrera, Sr.; RHP Damian Senises, Sr.; OF Alex Miret, Sr.; SS Arnaldo Brito, So.
7. SOUTHRIDGE (Coach Ed Doskow, 12th year at SR, 14th overall, 223-120). Last year: 15-10. Top players: RHP Isaac DaSilva, Sr.; CF Josten Heron, Jr.; LF Diondre Amion, Jr.; SS Arlain Sesin, Jr.
8. BRADDOCK (Coach Victor Montalvo, 2nd year, 10-12). Last year: 10-12. Top players: SS Anthony Alvarez, Jr.; RHP J.J. Marcos, Sr.; C Albert Rafael, Sr.; INF-OF Ivan Nunez, Sr.
9. HIALEAH GARDENS (Coach Tino Burgos, 5th year at HG, 7th overall). Last year: 8-12. Top players: C Gary Garcia, Sr.; LHP Chris Suarez, Sr.; SS Alejandro Vasquez, Jr.; 3B Jose Gaston, Jr.
10. FERGUSON (Coach Jose Novas, 7th year at FER, 25th overall, 346-299-2). Last year: 16-10. Top players: SS-P Javier Valdes, So.; INF Kevin Torres, Sr.; RHP Alan Saumell, Sr.; CF-P Joseph Campo, Sr.
11. SOUTHWEST (Coach Josy Torres, 10th year at SW, 13th overall). Last year: 15-11 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: C Rey Pastrana, Jr.; RF Brian Carreras, Sr.; P Andres Fletes, Jr.; 2B-3B Tony Gomez, Jr.
12. PALMETTO (Coach Danny Smith, 3rd year, 25-17). Last year: 12-9. Top players: P-INF Kieran Foreman, Sr.; C Kevin Barbato, Jr.; INF-P Carter Nash, Jr.; P-OF Ian Exposito, Sr.
13. MIAMI HIGH (Coach Frank Suarez, 12th year). Last year: 2-20. Top players: SS Christian Torres, So.; P Edgar Aparicio, Jr.; 1B Argenis Hernandez, Jr.; C Victor Herrera, Jr.
14. MIAMI BEACH (Coach Willy Baez, 2nd year, 3-15). Last year: 3-15. Top players: SS Trent Bryan, Jr.; C Leoni Lamana, Sr.; 3B-P-2B Themi Pineda, Jr.; 1B Jonah Dermer, Sr.
15. SOUTH MIAMI (Coach Denis Pujals, 2nd year at SM, 4th overall, 28-34). Last year: 9-14. Top players: CF Kendrick Garcia, Jr.; 3B Ismael Martinez, Sr.; 1B-C Scott Coscuella, Sr.; P Ernesto Romero, Sr.
16. VARELA (Coach John Barbato, 9th year at VAR, 17th overall). Last year: 11-9. Top players: SS Ben Murray, Sr.; 2B J.C. Garcia, Jr.; C Jonathan Bermudez, Jr.; C-DH Hector Vazquez, So.
17. CORAL REEF (Coach Ernie Padron, 1st year at CR). Last year: 2-20. Top players: LHP Chris Grullon, Sr.; C Benito Varela, Jr.; INF Austin Sander, Sr.; RHP Nick Ramirez, Sr.
1. AMERICAN (Coach Ricky Gutierrez, 6th year, 77-49). Last year: 21-9 (Class 8A state semifinalist). Top players: 3B Roman Gonzalez, Jr.; OF Kevin Williams, Sr.; RHP-OF Ronald Williams, Sr.; 2B Eric Gonzalez, Sr.
2. HIALEAH-MIAMI LAKES (Coach Mario Morffy, 3rd year, 27-22). Last year: 12-12. Top players: P-OF Brandon Morffy, Sr.; OF Marcus Smith, Sr.; OF Gil Rivera, Sr.; 1B-P Julio Santana, So.
3. REAGAN (Coach J.C. Huguet, 2nd year at RR, 5th overall, 11-11). Last year: 11-11. Top players: OF Joe Diaz, Sr.; 1B Edgar Pages, Jr.; C Pedro Pages, So.; P Carlos Mancilla, Jr.
4. NORTH MIAMI BEACH (Coach Alex Rodriguez, 2nd year, 7-9). Last year: 7-9. Top players: SS-P Manuel Matos, Sr.; 2B-P Alejandro Martinez, Sr.
1. MATER ACADEMY (Coach Mike DiRosa, 1st year). Last year: 24-4 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: 1B-LHP Mike Mediavilla, Sr.; OF Danny Reyes, Jr.; OF-1B Angel Ortiz, Sr.; SS Deyvid Silva, Jr.
2. BELEN JESUIT (Coach Jerry Albert, 3rd year at BEL, 15th overall, 214-152). Last year: 20-9 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: P Eric Artigues, Sr.; P David Villa, Sr.; SS Alex Cabrera, Sr.; C David Guevara, Sr.
3. TERRA (Coach Hernan Adames, 3rd year, 16-31). Last year: 11-14 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: C-1B Alex Saavedra, Sr.; C-1B Reuben Pino, Sr.; P Frankie Bartow, Jr.; P Andres Perez, So.
4. MIAMI SPRINGS (Coach Willie Vazquez, 2nd year at MS, 10th overall). Last year: 12-11. Top players: C-3B Juan Kirk, Jr.; 2B Julio Mendez, Sr.; SS Domingo Cedano, Sr.; OF Ronald Acosta, Sr.
5. GOLEMAN (Coach Jose Lopez, 2nd year at GOL, 6th overall). Last year: 18-7 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: P Sean Carrasco, Sr.; SS Erick Delgado, Jr.; 3B Kevin Gomez, Jr.; 1B Joshua Guia, Sr.
6. MOURNING (Coach Ed Bonilla, 3rd year at ATM, 6th overall, 19-27). Last year: 5-18. Top players: SS Alex Vallejo, Sr.; P-1B Matthew Castrorao, Sr.; C Andrew Feldman, Sr.; 2B-P Jose Reyes, Sr.
1. FLORIDA CHRISTIAN (Coach Chris Brigman, 2nd year, 17-12). Last year: 17-12 (Class 3A state semifinalist). Top players: OF Ruben Someillan, So.; P Alex Valverde, Jr.; IF Michael Fernandez, Sr.; OF Erik Montero, Sr.
2. MONSIGNOR PACE (Coach Tom Duffin, 15th year at MP, 22nd overall, 305-103-1). Last year: 23-7-1 (State runner-up). Top players: OF-P Lorenzo Hampton, Jr.; INF-P Benj Urra, Sr.; INF Leroy Garcia, Jr.; C Elliott Cutillas, Jr.
3. GULLIVER (Coach Javy Rodriguez, 7th year, 105-36). Last year: 14-14 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: SS Joe Dunand, Sr.; C Brent Diaz, Sr.; CF Brian Nido, Jr.; RHP Davis Brown, Jr.
4. LA SALLE (Coach Oscar Benitez, 16th year, 202-206). Last year: 14-15 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: SS Nick Canino, Sr.; P Sergio Miyares, Sr.; C Mike Cabezas, Sr.; 2B Jordan Vazquez, Sr.
5. MATER LAKES (Coach Cesar Temes, 5th year, 51-33-1). Last year: 19-9-1 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: C-3B Jonathan Lorenzo, Sr.; CF Jonathan Cox, Sr.; 1B Alejandro Castillo, Jr.; P Christian Calleja, Sr.
6. ST. BRENDAN (Coach Luis Padron, 1st year at StB). Last year: N/A. Top players: C Danny Sirven, Sr.; P-INF Reny Tolentino, Sr.; C-1B Nico Lares, Jr.; 2B Luis Padron, So.
7. RANSOM EVERGLADES (Coach Steve Suarez, 3rd year at RE, 4th overall). Last year: 7-15. Top players: C David Lanster, Jr.; INF Mathew Heisenbottle, Sr.; 3B Caleb Bush, Sr.; INF-P Chris Rossi, Jr.
1. WESTMINSTER CHRISTIAN (Coach Emil Castellanos, 8th year, 180-62-3). Last year: 22-8 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: C Dakota Robbins, Sr.; 3B Julian Infante, Jr.; P-OF Jon Jon Gonzalez, Jr.; 1B-OF Yuri Sucart, Sr.
2. PALMER TRINITY (Coach Don Harvey, 13th year at PT, 16th overall). Last year: 16-10. Top players: 1B-P Dustin Phillip, Sr.; OF-P Julian Stark, Sr.; INF-C Blake Miller, So.; SS-OF Nick Font, Jr.
3. WESTWOOD CHRISTIAN (Coach Julio Andrade, 1st year). Last year: 17-7 (State champions). Top players: 1B Adam Quinones, Sr.; CF Brandon Nayor, Jr.; SS Kenny Goodrich, Jr.; 2B Kenny Prado, Jr.
4. ARCHBISHOP CURLEY (Coach Jerry Yeash, 33rd year). Last year: 7-16-1. Top players: SS-P Karim Joseph, So.; INF-P Jordi Herrera, So.; 1B-P Jose Gomez, Sr.; OF-P Danny Diaz, Sr.
5. MIAMI COUNTRY DAY (Coach Paul Barrios, 3rd year at MCD, 8th overall, 73-71). Last year: 7-15. Top players: OF-RHP Carter Weiss, Sr.; INF-RHP Michael Fente, Sr.; C-INF-RHP Juztin Gross, So.; INF-RHP Austin Pollak, 8th.
1. BRITO (Coach David Fanshawe, 1st year). Last year: 20-5 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: J.C. Milian, Sr.; Savian Fernandez, Sr.; Julio Gonzalez, Sr.; Marco Bolano, Jr.
2. MIAMI CHRISTIAN (Coach Chris Cuadra). Last year: 7-14. Top players: 1B David Lopez, Sr.; SS Cristian Rivera, Sr.; OF Johan Porras, Sr.; P J.C. Llaser, Jr.
NORTH MIAMI (Coach Calvin Gibson, 1st year). Last year: 11-3. Top players: CF-P Victor Sam, Jr.; C-1B Daury Ceballos, Jr.