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Pace Wins March Madness Gold Title After McCarthy Forfeit

The HSBN March Madness Shootout Gold Bracket Champion Monsignor Pace Spartans.

Championship Photo Gallery

The stage was set on Wednesday evening for two of the top high school programs in the nation to square off in the Gold Bracket championship game of the HSBN March Madness Shootout. Archbishop McCarthy and Monsignor Pace, long-bitter rivals, had played brilliant baseball in the tournament’s first three games to advance to the title game, but the game was not to be.

Archbishop McCarthy’s administration held up what they believed to be an absolute ban on all sports activities between the two teams, stemming from an incident in early February. It decided to forfeit the championship game, handing the title to the Spartans in the process.

“We are abiding by a mutual agreement between both administrations stating we would not play each other in any sports over a period of time,” said the Archbishop McCarthy Adminstration, in a statement to HSBN.

Pace’s administration, however, saw the agreement slightly different.

“Monsignor Pace baseball is ready, willing, and able to play the championship game against Archbishop McCarthy,” said Pace Athletic Director Joe Zacceo. “Our understanding of the agreement with them (McCarthy) was that we would unschedule any games prior to the season (track, tennis, baseball, softball), and we will not play McCarthy again, unless it is in a tournament, districts, regional, or state competition.”

HSBN’s March Madness Shootout falls under the latter description, as it has become one of the premiere high school baseball Spring Break tournaments in the nation. Without a written agreement, and with vastly different interpretations of the verbal agreement between the administrations, HSBN was forced into a ruling. That decision was to award Monsignor Pace the forfeit win, and the Gold Bracket championship.

HSBN explained their decision in a statement.

“This week we were faced with the difficult decision of having to make a ruling for two great baseball programs with administrations that could not agree on the terms of a possible game ban. In light of the disagreement, and due to the facts as presented to us, we had Archbishop McCarthy inform us they were unwilling to play a scheduled championship game, so we awarded the win to Monsignor Pace. We hope that both schools respect our decision as final.”

The HSBN statement went on to speak of the real losers in the administrative disagreement.

“We have 48 teams worth of high school baseball players that have poured their souls into making the March Madness Shootout one of the most attended, exciting, and well-played baseball tournaments in the country, and we choose to keep the focus on the great things these players and programs our doing on the field. Our policy has always been to focus on the positive aspects of high school baseball, and that is what we will continue to do. We congratulate players from both Archbishop McCarthy and Monsignor Pace for advancing to the championship and providing us with six exciting wins. In is unfortunate that the mainstream media wants to focus on this small misunderstanding rather than all of the great baseball that has been played over the past week.”

As for that great baseball, McCarthy and Pace were above all else through the first three rounds in the Gold Bracket.

Pace was led in the semifinal win over LaSalle by a big second inning in which they sent 11 batters to the plate. Jonathan Ledesma had the big night for the Spartans, going 4-for-4.

Before that, Pace knocked off the third-seeded SLAM Titans. They opened the tournament with a come-from-behind 6-2 win over Westland Hialeah. In that game, the Spartans broke loose in the sixth, stretching a 3-2 lead to 6-2. Anthony Sanabria was the hitting star against the Wildcats, going 2-for-2 with an RBI and two runs.

In all, the Spartans outscored their opponents 30-10, and more importantly, woke up bats that had been dormant for much of the tournament.

“Coming into the tournament we really weren’t scoring a lot of runs,” said Pace Manager Tom Duffin. “It was a very positive sign to see the guys start swinging the bats well.”

While Duffin was pleased with their performance, he was disappointed with how the tournament ended.

“I really would have rather won the title on the field,” said Duffin. “We felt like we had everything lined up to make that happen this year and tonight. Archbishop McCarthy is a great program, and we have the utmost respect for them and their coaching staff, but we wanted to play the game.”

As for McCarthy, anyone writing off their national title hopes after one forfeit loss, their only loss of the season, obviously has not been watching the Mavericks too closely. Nobody has beaten them on the field as of yet, and they, as a baseball program, were equally prepared for the big showdown with Pace.

While Pace came into March Madness as a six-seed, McCarthy opened as the top seed for the second consecutive year. They avoided their fate of 2015 of being upset in the first round by defeating Mater Academy in round one. Up next for McCarthy was Miami power Killian. Showing they are prepared to win the tight ones necessary to make a state title run, the Mavericks snuck by the Cougars 5-4. In the semifinals, McCarthy showed they can come from behind. Adan Fernandez dropped two bombs at Pompano Four Fields, leading the Mavericks into the championship game.

In the title game, McCarthy was set to face one of the best pitchers in South Florida, Chris Rodriguez. The high profile match-up had MLB scouts flying in Wednesday morning for the game that would never be. One scout was impressed with what he saw from the Gold Bracket Champion Spartans.

“Congratulations to Pace, a great team.” said Chicago White Sox Scout Pepe Ortega. “Best team in South Florida.”

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