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Restrepo’s 8 RBIs Lead Doral To Regional Finals

Daniel Restrepo (3) after hitting a two-run homer for Doral.

It was around this time a season ago when first baseman Daniel Restrepo went on a tear at the plate to help lead the Doral Academy Firebirds to a state championship, and history might be repeating itself in 2023.

Restrepo went deep twice and drove in eight in a 12-1 win over Varela on Saturday that put Doral in the 6A Region 4 finals once again. The Middle Georgia State College commit traded an out for a run in the first, hit a two-run homer in the third and ended the game in the fifth with a walk-off grand slam that satisfied the run rule.

“I know my team needs me. I know they need everything I’ve got,” Restrepo said. “I just try my best. I try to focus less on doing more for myself and (do) more for the team.”

Restrepo’s first homer was a turning point in the game. Some commotion in the stands caused a brief delay, but the momentum was clearly on Doral’s side moving forward in the game. A 4-1 lead quickly ballooned and when Restrepo stepped up to the plate again in the fifth with the bases loaded and a chance to end the game, it felt like everyone knew what would happen.

A 12-1 finish is a much different final score than the one from the district championship game between these two clubs, but that’s the kind of performance Firebirds manager Ralph Suarez expects after winning it all a year ago.

“We did what we were supposed to do,” Suarez said. “Unfortunately, we’re fighting some injuries. We just got (Gabriel) Milano back. He was hitting like .550 and had three home runs before he went down… Our pitching is what’s carried us all year, and they’ve done a great job so far.”

Hector Gonzalez (24) pitched 3 1/3 innings in relief for Varela.

Restrepo’s bat isn’t the only hot one on the team. Adrian Santana has been one of the best shortstops in the country all year long and Michael Torres broke the school record for walks this year. Still, Restrepo might be the last and most important piece of the puzzle to click. Suarez estimated that his team is one of the 10 best in the country when Restrepo is hitting like this. That said, the expectation isn’t eight RBIs a night from him moving forward.

As for pitching, Luis Rodriguez hurled four innings of two-hit ball and only allowed one unearned run to score on a pair of hits and three walks. Marcelo Rodriguez got the fifth and could have gone longer, but the run rule ended the game early. Marcelo is only a sophomore and the staff is extremely high on him for the future. With key pieces of the rotation moving on from the program next year, he could be the next name to know out of Doral.

Sebastian Berrios also had a two-hit game for the Firebirds and drove in two runs. Wilfred Gonzalez and Justin Ruiz also drove in runs.

While Suarez may have expected a win, he had nothing but positives to say about the opposing Vipers following a phenomenal season.

“I give Lazer and Varela, you know, they’ve done a great job,” Suarez said. “They won 17-18 games. Those kids play hard, and they came out and competed. My hat goes off to Lazer. He’s turned that program around in a couple of years. They’re going to be someone to contend with all the time.”

Luis Rodriguez (9) went four strong innings without giving up an earned run for Doral.

Vipers manager Lazer Collazo has led his club with class all year long, and he’s quick to give all the credit to the players. Competing for a district title and making a regional run is a clear high point for the program. The scoreboard might have finished a bit one-sided, but there’s no reason for the Vipers to hang their heads.

“I know the score was 12-1, but at least we put up a fight,” Collazo said. “Our guys never, never gave up, and that’s what it’s all about. You know, Doral’s the team to beat every year, so we just have to get better for next year.”

The good news is that there is a ton of young talent on the team. Just six seniors are leaving the roster and at least four members of Saturday’s starting lineup are returning. Collazo is hopeful that this season was just the beginning of what’s to come for his club.

“We’re returning a lot,” he said. “Watch out.”

For Doral, a rematch of last year’s regional final against Dwyer looms on Tuesday. The Firebirds won 10-0 last year, but the Panthers haven’t forgotten that loss and are hoping to pull off the upset this year.

“Listen, we get to the finals — I say it every year — we did our job,” Suarez said. “We win the game on Tuesday, everything else is gravy. It’s extremely hard to win every year. We try to prepare the kids as much as we possibly can.”

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