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Pace, Archbishop McCarthy Advance To Gold Championship

The Spartans welcome Andres Sanchez at home plate after the Pace catcher’s grand slam home run in the second.

Gold Semifinal Gallery

Offense ruled the day in the two semifinals in the Gold Bracket of the HSBN March Madness Shootout on Tuesday night. Top seed Archbishop McCarthy rallied in the fifth to claim a 7-4 victory over St. Thomas Aquinas, while #6 Monsignor Pace rode a monster second inning to a 15-5 win over LaSalle.

The two clubs are now the last ones standing in the 16-team bracket, and will meet Wednesday night at Pompano Four Fields in the Gold Bracket championship game.

The #6 Spartans went to work early against the Lions, who won a pair of upsets as the #10 seed to reach the semifinals. Manuel Rodriguez had a 1-2-3 first and the Spartans (13-4) quickly went to work to stake the left-hander a lead. Justin Ledesma had a two-RBI double to score Bryan Diaz and Jorge Arenas, before scoring on an RBI single from Jonathan Ledesma for a 3-0 advantage.

Pace batted around and sent 11 men to the plate in a monster second inning that put them well in front. Jonathan Reyes-Diaz and Bryan Diaz had consecutive RBI doubles, followed by RBI singles from Arenas and Brandon Cruz. Andres Sanchez then brought the home crowd to a thunderous roar as he slugged a grand slam over the left field fence.

“We were putting the bats together, getting some hits and the team was playing good. We got the bases loaded and I came up and put it out and it kind of put the nail in the coffin for them. My friend Jonathan comes up and hits another one and it really nailed it down. I think that was the turning point in the game.”

With the Spartans bouncing with momentum, Jonathan Ledesma kept it going by smacking the very first pitch he saw over the same spot in left for back-to-back home runs.

“It just felt awesome to go back-to-back with one of my closest friends on the team,” Jonathan Ledesma said. “I haven’t been hitting that great as the season has gone on, but today to go 4-for-4 and help my team out with a couple of RBIs felt amazing. Coach was just preaching to sit back and drive the baseball, and today we just sat back and hit the way we know how to hit.”

The Lions (11-6) refused to go quietly, scoring five runs in the fourth to keep hope alive. Carlos Quintana drove in Danny Rodriguez and Angel Marcano with a double, and George Fernandez and Jesus Villacis followed with consecutive RBI singles.

The other semifinal was tight early, with the lead changing hands several times. Trailing by a run, Archbishop McCarthy took the lead with three runs in the bottom of the fifth.

With the bases loaded and an 0-2 count against him, McCarthy senior shortstop Kobe Lopez connected for an infield single to get the rally moving. Alex Carballo followed and lined a shot just off the glove of the Raiders’ second baseman for a two-RBI single that put McCarthy back in the lead.

Joe Perez pitched the seventh to earn the save. Meanwhile, Adan Fernandez had a pair of home runs to lead the Mavericks (16-0).

“I’m so proud of my boys, as this was a hard-fought victory and a great team win over a very good St. Thomas team,” Mavericks manager Rich Bielski said. “So many guys contributed. Although we were behind we felt we could take the lead at any time. Then we just played good defense and our pitchers made some big pitches.”

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