Four Miami Clubs Advance To HSBN March Madness Semifinals
The second day of the 2023 HSBN March Madness Shootout saw Miami Christian, Miami Sunset and Schoolhouse Prep improve to 2-0 and advance to the semifinal round. Three more teams fell to 0-2, leaving a quartet of ballclubs tied at 1-1 for the last playoff spot in the tournament. Miami Springs held on through the tiebreakers and might be one of the stronger four-seeds in tournament history.
Starting off the day at Pompano Four Fields were the Miami Sunset Knights (9-2) and the Miami Springs Golden Hawks (7-4). Both teams were coming off dominant rounds on the first day of pool play, but Springs was the favorite against a Sunset team that hadn’t yet secured a signature win on the year. Cross that off the list. Knights manager Julio Mendoza said he didn’t exhale until after the final out was called, but his team successfully knocked off the fifth-ranked team in Miami-Dade on Monday afternoon, 4-2.
“That’s a powerhouse. That’s a team that can win the last game of the season…” Mendoza said after the win. “… It’s the biggest win this program has had in many years. This validates the 9-2 (record) and it validates that we are going in the right direction.”
Right-handed senior Johan Hidalgo went six innings for the Knights and struck out five while allowing just two runs (one earned) on three hits and two walks. Mendoza said the performance could establish Hidalgo as one of the top arms in the county, and he certainly backed it up against a loaded lineup on Monday. Daniel Perruc came in for the save and got the Golden Hawks to go down in order, including a strikeout.
At the plate, Sunset only had three hits on the day, but it was enough to get the job done. First baseman A.J. Garcia brought in a pair on an error at shortstop in the bottom of the third, designated hitter Nick Rodriguez singled in the go-ahead run after a pitching change and David Ruesca drew a walk to bring in the fourth and final Sunset run of the afternoon. Springs also scored early. Two early bunts from Keyber Delgado and Leo Miranda scored runs, but things turned into a pitcher’s duel after the fourth. Both teams combined for one hit throughout the final three innings of the ballgame.
The other early game in Pompano was between two teams that came up short on Saturday, the Southwest Miami Eagles (6-4) and the TERRA Institute Wolves (6-4). The Eagles came to play on Monday and put up a 15-spot on the Wolves thanks to plenty of free bases along the way. TERRA’s pitching staff walked seven batters and hit two more, but 10 Southwest players collected hits throughout the 15-3 win. Diego Santos was the only Eagle to finish with multiple hits, including a double, and he also led the team with three RBIs.
Southwest broke through early with four runs in the first inning, but it was the eight-run fourth that really put the game out of reach. Albert Bell, Aaron Elissalt, Matthew Ferrer, Roman Reyes and Santos all drove in runs in the fourth. Because of the run rule, the game ended after five innings. Southwest nearly made it to the tournament playoffs with the number of runs it scored on Monday and the Eagles certainly look like the biggest threat in the consolation bracket moving forward.
“We’re trying to get rolling and having some good competitive at-bats, and today we came out swinging it,” Eagles manager Mandy Peleaz said. “Our pitchers got some help and loosened up with the run support, which we haven’t had so it’s definitely nice to see the offense moving.”
Sean Gay, Damian Leyva and Diego Rivera each had a hit and one RBI for TERRA.
The final early game of the day was at Miami Christian where the Victors (7-4) took care of business against a Mater Academy Lions (4-7) club that was coming off a 10-0 win on Saturday, 5-3. The Lions struck first in the opening frame of the afternoon when Dylan Fernandez singled in Eiker Noguera. Miami Christian responded immediately with two in the bottom of the first. Willy Mendez knocked in the first run and scored the second after a pitch hit Denixon Suarez.
Jose Alfonso added an insurance for Miami Christian in the bottom of the fourth with an RBI single, and Suarez got his second RBI of the day with a sacrifice fly. Jeter Polledo drove in a fifth run for the Victors in the bottom of the sixth, but Mater Academy didn’t go down without a fight. Andy Mesa broke the scoring seal that had been in place since the first inning for the Lions with a sacrifice fly of his own, and Noguera ate a hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to bring Mater within two. That’s where the rally ended, though, and Miami Christian secured itself a spot in the playoffs.
The late slate of games began with a 4-0 victory for the Schoolhouse Prep Wolfpack (5-6-1) over the Cooper City Cowboys (8-3). The Wolfpack gave up just one run through the first two days of the tournament and it has put them in the driver’s seat of the playoffs as the No. 1 seed.
Schoolhouse Prep jumped all over the Cowboys early. Cooper City starter Chase Bart walked three and gave up three hits, allowing four runs to cross. Victor Torres singled in a run, Lenin Nunez and Jake Padro scored on passed balls and Christian De Los Santos drove one in on a fielder’s choice. That was most of the offense either team would muster up over the next six innings, though.
“Fortunately, our team has stepped up over the past couple of days,” Wolfpack manager Jorge Aguas said. “We’ve actually played some good baseball. We prepared ourselves early with the schedule that we have. We have enough talent, and now it’s coming together at the right time.”
Bart bounced back after a difficult first inning and worked his way through the next three frames with little trouble. Schoolhouse Prep managed just two more hits throughout the game, and only one of those was off Bart. Devin Heithaus pitched two innings of scoreless relief while surrendering just one hit and a walk while striking out two.
Schoolhouse Prep’s pitching was even better. Keith Aguas pitched four no-hit innings, Kevin Quezeda came in for an inning of relief and Yunior Pena got the save. Both Quezeda and Pena gave up a hit, ending the combined no-hit bid, but it was still another stronger outing on the mound for the Wolfpack, and they still have their top arms available for the playoff run.
The day ended with a 5-1 victory for the Nova Titans (8-4) over the Olympic Heights Lions (3-6) as the temperature dropped and velocities rose. The Lions threw their ace, right-handed sophomore Nick Manning, and had left-hander Brandon Yospe come out of the bullpen. Scouts clocked both at 87-88, but Nova seemed prepared to face the heat.
The Titans batters waited patiently for their pitch and drew three walks off Manning. Two of those came back to haunt him in the third when Gavin McClure singled in two runs, giving Nova a lead it wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the ballgame. Walks also hurt the bullpen in the fifth as two more runs came across, one on a Nick Evans single.
“The pitchers we faced today were very good,” Titans manager Brian Luebkert said. “I think our kids see the harder pitching a little bit better. We don’t get out in front of the ball as much as we do when we face slower pitching… We came to play today. We were looking to bounce back from Saturday’s loss and we have another game tomorrow.”
Tuesday’s schedule sees the tournament move to Miami-Dade County. Miami Springs and Miami Christian will each host a consolation game at 1 p.m. and a semifinal game at 4 p.m. Here are the semifinal and consolation bracket matchups.
(1) Schoolhouse Prep Wolfpack vs. (4) Miami Springs Golden Hawks
(2) Miami Christian Victors vs. (3) Miami Sunset Knights
Southwest Miami Eagles vs. Cooper City Cowboys @ Miami Christian
TERRA Institute Wolves vs. Nova Titans @ Miami Springs