Spartans Win 15-8 Over Rival Knights In GOTW Slugfest
It was a win that Manager Paul Barrios knew his team badly needed.
For although it has been a tough season so far, nothing feels more refreshing and rewarding than beating your rival.
Playing under their home lights in Friday’s HSBN Game of the Week, host Miami Country Day pulled away late for a 15-8 victory over rival Archbishop Curley in a game played at Dubois Frazier Baseball Field in the Koch Family Athletic Complex.
The Game of the Week concept was created by HSBN with the intention of raising money for the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundation, while also giving fans something to get excited about each week.
Friday’s contest pitted two longtime friendly rivals from District 3A-15, who have a long and storied history of back-and-forth and sometimes bizarre events over the course of the many years they have played one another.
“I’ve been wanting a win for them so bad,” Barrios admitted after his Spartans came back from a two-run deficit to run away late for their second win of the season. “We needed this for morale; the guys have been battling. It’s a district win we needed to have. When I told the team this was the Game of the Week and you guys were covering it, they were thrilled. This was big and it was awesome.”
Miami Country Day earns its first win in 3A-15 to improve to 1-4 and move into a tie with the Knights, with each team having one more district game remaining.
Even as both teams have struggled through the start of the season, against an opponent each side knew so well they both provided plenty of offensive firepower to dazzle the fans in attendance for the show in Miami Shores on Friday night.
“I’m so excited right now I can’t even describe it,” said Spartans winning pitcher Micheal Fente. “This is such a big rivalry game for us, for me specifically, so coming out with a ‘W’ for this game feels great.”
Although pitching took a back seat to an offensive barrage that saw both teams combine for 21 hits and 23 runs, it was Fente who helped pave the way to victory with his strong performance in relief on the mound.
After inheriting a pair of base runners in coming onto the hill in the top of the fourth inning, the lanky right-hander settled in to effectively cool off the Knights’ bats over the final three and two third innings to earn his first win of the season.
“Coming up on the mound my nerves were jumping a little bit. But after that inning I was able to calm down and settle in,” Fente said, while admitting how much it meant to him to pitch against guys he knows so well. “I’ve played with these kids and played against them since I was nine years old. So I know some of their tendencies. It’s fun knowing the little details about the other team.”
Besides having a mental scouting report on the batters he was facing, Fente (1-1) also credited his pitching coach for having recently taught him a new pitch to throw. All week long he practiced this new pitch, and on the hill it helped lead the way to five strikeouts.
Most of the game, however, neither team was missing on much. Befitting the history of this rivalry, hits piled up and runs filled the scoreboard.
In his 34 years as the Knights manager, Jerry Yeash has seen plenty of wild and crazy results whenever these two teams have faced off. When his team learned this would be the featured game, he knew he could count on his young team to supply a performance worthy of such an event.
“They were very excited, so now they are a bit disappointed that they didn’t do a little better,” Yeash said. “We didn’t take advantage early in the game and then we broke down on defense late. I have really good kids; they’re nice to coach and they are hard-nosed. They just need to develop more of a killer instinct.”
In a game that saw four lead changes in all, the Spartans overcame a 7-6 deficit with a four-run fourth inning that put them up for good.
It was Fente helping his own cause by singling on a liner up the middle to start the inning off, then quickly finding himself ninety feet from home plate when Carter Weiss singled and Adam Seif walked to load the bases.
That ended the night for Archbishop Curley senior starter Tony Yeash, who was replaced by Nick Salow.
Things did not go well for Salow right away, as two runners scored on a throwing error to put the Spartans ahead, and then their starting pitcher Juztin Gross followed by ripping an RBI single.
The Spartans padded their lead with a five-run sixth inning, as Greg Revitz had a two-RBI single and Fente followed with a two-RBI double.
Fente was 3-for-5 with two runs on the day, while Revitz and seventh-grade starter Austin Pollak were both 2-for-4.
“That kid can flat out hit,” Barrios said of his young first baseman Pollak. “He has one of the better approaches at the plate then some of the older guys.”
Across the diamond in the Knights dugout Friday were plenty of dangerous hitters of their own, starting with the team’s number three hitter Ezequiel Araujo.
Araujo drove a shot deep to center field to score Salow in the top of the first, and then reached in the second on an infield error that brought Yeash home and put Curley up 4-0.
Araujo doubled again to send Yeash home with the team’s final run in the top of the seventh, as he raised his season total to 11 doubles in all. He finished 3-for-5 on the day while reaching base four times.
Curley added a third run in the first as Jordi Herrera had a tipped swing that saw the ball die on the infield grass to score Jethro Galeano with an RBI single as Herrera was able to beat the throw to first base.
He finished 2-for-2 with a double, while also reaching base all four plate appearances with a walk and getting hit by a pitch.
Karim Joseph had an RBI single in the fourth, and two batters later Knights designated hitter Jose Gomez dropped a blooper into the shallow outfield for a two-RBI single.
Pitching for the last time in his high school career against Miami Country Day, Knights starter Tony Yeash did not want to come out of the ball game at all.
“He wanted to finish what he started,” Coach Yeash said of his youngest son. “He’s a real competitor and he was battling. He was real disappointed that I took him out.”
Tony Yeash allowed seven hits and two walks in three innings, and he picked up two strikeouts to raise his team-leading total to 52 on the year.
For his coach and father alike, the game was another in a very memorable season.
“As far as I feel, even though we haven’t won a lot of games, this is one of my most fun years,” Coach Yeash admitted. “I have my oldest son coaching with me, and I have my other son here playing pretty well.”
Coach Yeash has grown very fond of this group of players, and says Salow is the best one he has ever coached. In a season that has not rewarded them with many victories, the team has grown together the way all successful ballclubs must first do.
“That’s baseball experience,” said Coach Yeash. “Lots of our guys are playing baseball for the first time, and you don’t get that right away.”
The win evens the season series at a game apiece, after the Knights won 8-2 on February 19th for their lone win on the season. That win had avenged a pair of shutout defeats that Miami Country Day had handed them in 2012, when they were shutout by scores of 9-0 and 3-0.
Although Juztin Gross did not factor in the decision for the Spartans, he was a workhorse for the team in throwing 95 pitches while scattering five hits and walking six. Only two runs scored against him were earned, and he recorded seven strikeouts.
Regardless of who earned the victory for the team Friday, what the players all knew was that it meant they would not be having an early morning practice on Saturday.
“Maybe I can go out and dust off the old golf clubs,” Barrios joked.