All season long, many doubted whether the undefeated record and gaudy national ranking was legit. Last weekend, the Miami Springs baseball team proved it was the real deal by shocking Plantation American Heritage. If there were any leftover doubters, the Golden Hawks slam dunked that issue on Wednesday afternoon.
Host Springs defeated Eau Gallie 11-5 in a Region 4-6A final at Springs High School’s Shelly Dunkel Field. With tons of Springs alumni at the game lining both the left- and right-field line, the dogpile at the center of the field when it was over said it all. A program playing in its first ever regional final took full advantage, breaking through to the state final four.
Springs, 27-1 and now ranked No. 8 in the nation in Baseball America, will take on either Dunnellon or Tampa Jesuit in a 6A state semifinal at CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers on May 31 at 1 p.m.
“This is an absolutely unbelievable moment right now and I’m still trying to believe it really happened,” said Springs head coach David Fanshawe. “For this group of kids to have come this far in the last three months is a credit to their heart and determination.”
The Hawks got out to an early lead in the first. With two on and one out, J.M. Llavore blasted a three-run homer over the left-field fence off Eau Gallie starter Trey Jackson to give Springs starter Carlos Rey a 3-0 lead.
“It was a 3-2 count and he gave me a fastball up right out over the center of the plate and I got good bat on it,” said Llavore. “Yeah, getting that early lead was really huge for us because everything was tense and that helped loosen us up.”
The Hawks continued to build the scoring twice more in the third. Rey helped himself by hitting a triple and scoring on a Llavore infield ground out before Jason Torres, Saturday’s hero when he hit a walkoff homer in the last inning to shock Heritage, hit another tape measure shot over the left-center field fence.
Leading 6-1 going to the sixth, the Hawks, whose pitching staff had a combined ERA of 0.95 during the regular season, almost saw everything slip away.
Eau Gallie batters started to catch up with Rey with back-to-back singles to lead off the inning followed by a Trey Jackson double to make it 6-2. Fanshawe then turned to freshman Jesus Gonzalez, his shutdown closer all season long.
But William Hagen stunned Gonzalez and the Springs crowd by clobbering his very first pitch over the center field fence for a three-run homer. Suddenly, it was 6-5.
Gonzalez retired the side in order from there and then got all the insurance he would need when the Hawks, after Eau Gallie recorded the first two outs, put on a huge rally scoring five runs by virtue of five walks and a Nicholas Fuentes two-RBI single.
“This is really something, what a group of guys,” said Rey, who was the winning pitcher. “Every time we heard about all of the doubters, all that did was fuel us even more to prove them all wrong. Now we’re going to Fort Myers and hopefully they’ll keep doubting us when we get there too.”