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Zack Gonzalez Shines As Southwest Miami Drops Reigning Champs Ferguson

Zack Gonzalez struck out nine and held Ferguson scoreless to help Southwest advance to the District Championship.

Wednesday’s 8A District 15 semifinal was decided by a run in the first inning. It was all the Southwest Miami Eagles needed to take down the reigning district champion Ferguson Falcons, 1-0.

The Falcons left six men on base, including three at third, as Zack Gonzalez struck out nine batters to pick up the win for the Eagles. Gonzalez allowed just three hits in seven innings and gave up just one walk.

“It was all Zack Gonzalez tonight,” said Southwest coach Jose Torres. “It was pretty amazing what he was able to do. He got us out of three huge jams, but then again, he’s a pretty good pitcher, so I’m not surprised. He made some tough pitches, and that was the difference.”

The Eagles’ Carlos Pena singled to left in the first inning for the game’s first hit. Ferguson starting pitcher Brandon Valentin walked back-to-back batters to load the bases for Bryan Carreras, who hit a sacrifice fly, bringing Pena home from third for a 1-0 lead.

Ferguson elected to bring in relief pitcher Victor Morrell in the second inning and Morrell finished the game for the Falcons, recording six strikeouts and not allowing a run.

Gonzalez gave up a double in the fourth off the bat of Chris Medina. The Falcons Alfred Rodriquez executed a sacrifice bunt to move Medina to third, but Gonzalez countered with two strikeouts to escape the inning with no damage done.

Luis Gutierrez hit a double that bounced off the left-field wall in the fifth for the Southwest’s second hit. He found his way to third by way of a wild pitch, but with one out, Morrell tallied his fourth strikeout and forced a fly out to center field to retire the inning.

The Falcons’ Victor Morrell struck out six and didn’t allow a run in six innings of relief pitching.

Jesus Fuenmayor hit a leaping ball to third base that skipped into the outfield in the Falcons’ half of the fifth. Fuenmayor took advantage of a tiring Gonzalez when Gonzalez’s wild pitch got behind catcher Alex Mangano, allowing Fuenmayor to advance to second base. Gonzalez tried to regroup and did, with a strike out of Alfres Rodriquez, but the wild third strike got past Mangano behind the plate, allowing Rodriquez to reach first and Fuenmayor to reach third.

With two runners in scoring position and one out in the inning, Torres huddled his team on the mound for what was the most pivotal moment in the game for both teams. But it was Gonzalez again who rose to the occasion and threw six strikes in eight pitches to strike out back-to-back batters and again get of the jam.

“I took it one pitch at a time,” Gonzalez said. “I told myself there was nobody on and just took it pitch by pitch. I knew I needed to keep my composure and throw strikes, and I threw them and kept my composure in tough situations throughout the game.”

Gonzalez struck out his eighth and ninth batters to start the seventh, and then forced a grounder for the final out.

“I had all the confidence in the world in him,” Torres said. “He’s a tough kid, and I told him to calm down and relax. Their big hitter came up with a man on first and third, but I just reminded him that he could strike him out.”

Jose Novas, head coach of Ferguson was disappointed his team couldn’t capitalize on his team’s many opportunities.

“We had guys in scoring position but just didn’t make the plays,” Novas said. “It seems we had base runners almost every inning, but we just couldn’t get them across the plate.”

The seniors for the Falcons have won two district titles in their career, so they were not happy with not advancing to the district title game, or regionals.

“We’re not used to ending our season so early,” Novas said, “but hopefully the underclassman learn from it, and we got a good core of juniors coming back.”

Southwest will face the Columbus Explorers on Friday for the district championship. The Eagles lost their first two meetings with the Explorers and look to avenge those losses following their big win Wednesday.

“It’s high school baseball, and we certainly feel that we can match up with anybody,” Torres said of the upcoming district title game.

The game will take place on Friday at Braddock at 3:30pm.

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