Miami Christian waited 43 years between state baseball titles before winning it all last season.
The wait wasn’t nearly as long this time around.
The Victors scored three runs in the first inning and made that stand up as they topped Naples Seacrest Country Day 3-1 in the Class 2A state championship game on Thursday night at CenturyLink Sports Complex.
“I guess nobody had to wait that long this time,” Miami Christian coach Chris Cuadra said with a smile. “Things got tight there at the end, but I had the confidence my kids would make the plays necessary to get it done and they did.”
The second title was thanks mainly to a great pitching performance by sophomore and University of Miami commit Alejandro Rosario.
Rosario was outstanding over the course of six innings, striking out seven while yielding just two hits and two walks.
He even managed to work his way out of a huge jam in the sixth, most of it no fault of his own.
An error at second base put leadoff hitter Jordan Martinez aboard before he walked Matt Riley on four pitches.
Then a ground ball to first that could have been an easy out turned into a disaster when Victors first basemen Christian Muniz instead decided to go for the force at second and threw it into the outfield creating a second-and-third, no-outs situation.
Faced with his biggest moment of the night, Rosario bared down and struck out Brandon Espinosa and Joe DiNorcia.
He then induced a ground ball back to himself from Thomas Cepero and made the easy throw to first for the final out and gave out a wild fist pump.
“That sixth inning was a tough moment so I needed to just be tougher,” Rosario said. “I just had to be tough mentally and somehow battle my way out of it and I did.”
It turned out to be his last pitch of the night when Cuadra went with his closer Jason Garcia to close it out in the seventh.
But when Garcia walked the first two batters on eight pitches, the Victors were in trouble. But, like his teammate the previous inning, Garcia didn’t panic.
He struck out Dan DiNorcia, the number nine hitter in the lineup who failed to put down a bunt and then got leadoff hitter Jordan Martinez to ground into a perfectly executed six-four-three double play to end the game and make way for the dog pile.
“Jason struggled at the start of the inning, but he’s a mentally tough kid,” Cuadra said, “and he showed it by getting the strikeout and then letting the defense take care of the last play.”
The Victors got Rosario all the runs he would need in the first when they jumped all over SCD starter Andrew Geiger by plating three runs.
Jose Izarra and Muniz led the inning off with back-to-back singles. When Adrian Rodriguez hit a sharp grounder to shortstop, it looked like an easy double play. But shortstop Jordan Martinez, after stepping on second for the force out, threw wild to first and Izarra scored.
Three batters later, with two on and two out, Justin DeArmas hit a shot to left center that SCD center fielder Dan DiNorica stretched and out dove for but couldn’t bring in. Two runs scored.
Miami Christian could have added to that lead in both the second and third innings as the Victors loaded the bases with two outs in the second and got a second and third two-out situation in the third. But Fernando Fernandez grounded out to end the second and Juan Guerra did the same in the third
“That was probably the toughest moment I’ve ever faced on the mound,” Garcia, a senior playing his last game, said referring to his first and second, no outs jam. “I knew my teammates were counting on me to settle down and battle my out of it and I knew they had my back as well out on the field and proved it with that great double play to end it. What a feeling to win state back-to-back.”