Pilin’ On: McCarthy Wins State Record 4th Title In A Row
Everybody did their job.
It takes tremendous commitment and teamwork in order to win a state championship.
To accomplish what Archbishop McCarthy did on Thursday night takes something special.
The Mavericks completed a journey that had never been done before in the history of Florida high school baseball. In defeating Mosley 5-2 in the Class 6A state championship at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers Thursday night, McCarthy rewrote the history books in becoming the first team in the state to win four consecutive state titles.
Starting pitcher Andres Nunez snagged a comebacker to the mound and fired to first baseman Brian Gonzalez to record the final out of the contest, setting off a celebration unlike anything else that even the Mavericks had done before.
“There were two outs and I looked at my pitching coach Ric Butner and I said ‘Ric, I think I’m going to pile up’,” Mavericks Manager Rich Bielski said. “So he goes ‘brother, if you’re gonna pile up I’m gonna pile up with you’. So I said ‘OK, let’s do it’.”
Piling up with the team is a baseball tradition that most clubs love to do following a big victory. So when the Mavericks (26-5) won the biggest game in the history of their program, not even the coaches could resist sharing that moment with the players.
“We got that last out and we hit the field running,” Bielski said. “I felt Ric as my wingman right there running next to me and we both flew through the air like Superman and landed on top of those kids. When they saw us flying though the air on top of them, they didn’t know what to do. I’ll never forget their faces. I’ll never forget my son’s face when I was diving at him. That was the last thing that any of those boys expected.”
McCarthy baseball has been founded on brotherly love, togetherness and playing for the guys around them. It has also been built on a foundation that promotes love for the game of baseball and the ability to enjoy the great moments as they come.
When their manager joined them in their moment of celebration in the dogpile, it marked just another sign of how much the love for baseball fuels this team to be the champions that they once again can now call themselves.
“It just shows you how much Coach Bielski loves the game,” senior third baseman Jonathan Quintana said. “He wants to be playing with us. He wants to be on the field playing the game. It’s nice to know he’s there and he really wants it for us as bad we do. I think sometimes he wants it more than we do. He jumped out onto the field with us into the dogpile and he’s like 100 years old. It’s just amazing.”
Quintana had his hand in feats of amazement as well, reaching base in all three of his trips to the plate.
Mosley (28-4) jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Bowen McGuffin blooped a single into shallow left field to score Jordan Larry. It was a lead that was very short-lived.
Leading off the bottom of the first, Quintana chopped a single through the left side to immediately give the Mavericks a baserunner. Michael Gigliotti moved him to second on a sacrifice bunt, and Brian Gonzalez roped a liner past third for an RBI single to even the score at 1-1.
“Once we got that first run it was going from there. We weren’t stopping,” Quintana said. “With our team once it starts going, it’s like a virus. It’s contagious. There’s nothing to stop it. I just wanted to hit the ball hard on the ground and make the fielders have to field it. It was very important for me to get on base there though.”
The Dolphins had grasped some early momentum by drawing first blood, but just like that it was gone. McCarthy baseball had begun, and there was nothing that could stop it.
Mavericks starter Andres Nunez settled in quickly from there, making himself at home on the mound and simply approaching the game like it was any other regular-season contest.
“When your teammates come back and hit for you, it’s just a great feeling,” Nunez said. “I felt great out there and my teammates and my coaches believed in me. I’ve just got to thank them all. You’ve just got to love your teammates. They are the ones who keep you up when you’re struggling.”
McCarthy senior catcher Michael Hernandez reiterated that sentiment, sharing his thankfulness for a team that helped him achieve a personal accomplishment that also has never been done in Florida history. As the only four-year player on the club, Hernandez became the only player to win a championship ring all four years of his high school career.
“I’m grateful and thankful for everything these guys have given me these past four years,” said Hernandez. “I’ve got to give all the credit to my team. They put me in a position to be one of the history-makers here. I thank them and I thank all my coaches.”
The Mavericks put the game away with the decisive runs during a three-run third inning.
Blade Bielski and Quintana both walked to start the frame, and again Gigliotti unselfishly dropped a sacrifice bunt to move them both into scoring position.
Although Mosley starting pitcher Andre Deramo had only thrown 28 pitches his first time through the lineup, once he put the first two runners on in the third inning Dolphins Manager Todd Harless opted to go to the bullpen for right-hander Joey Hair.
Having come so far and now standing so close to history, Hair found himself in the difficult position of trying to be the villain to thwart history. But to do so, he would have to work his way through the heart of a Mavericks lineup that has faced nothing but the opposition’s best arms all year long.
Up to the plate came junior center fielder Brandon Vicens, the team’s three-hole hitter who has been a crucial cog on both sides of the field for McCarthy this year. Vicens has played Gold Glove-caliber defense and also led the team in RBIs this season.
When Vicens roped a 1-2 pitch off the Green Monster in left field, he added the two most important RBIs of the year on his double that drove in the winning runs. Vicens wasted no time in working to add to that lead by swiping third base on the first pitch to Gonzalez in the next at bat.
Gonzalez connected to the deepest part of the ball park on a shot that sailed high and far into center field, where Jordan Larry made an incredible running catch that left him with no chance of throwing home in time to stop Quintana from coming home to make it 4-1.
Even though there was still four innings of play remaining, that frame told the story of how this contest would end. The storybook ending was written with those impactful at bats. Now that the Mavericks had put themselves into the driver’s seat, their foot was on the pedal and there would be no more stops on this journey until it was time to begin celebrating.
Nunez settled in and tossed three straight scoreless innings.
“Once the pitcher gets runs, he starts to settle down and get into his groove,” said Hernandez of his starter. “I just try to keep him in a rhythm and keep him going. He’s a battler and he just battled tonight. He was throwing all of his pitches for strikes so it was going pretty well.”
It kept going well on offense too.
In the sixth Vicens laced a shot to left that carried over the fielder’s head to allow him to reach safely to second with a leadoff double. He then advanced to third on a throwing error on a pickoff attempt, and two batters later Aaron Soto drove him in on a sacrifice flyout for McCarthy’s final run of the night.
Mosley staged one final rally attempt with a run in the top of the seventh, before Nunez induced a comebacker that bounced right into his glove and rewarded his complete-game effort in allowing him to be the guy to record the final putout on this magical season.
All year long the Mavericks had managed to avoid the pressure one would expect to endure in chasing their spot in history. Even during this final crucial game, the team was poised and played within themselves to stay head-above-water to prove that they were the right group to make history happen.
“They love baseball. They have a passion for it and I ask each team every year to share the passion that the coaches have for the game,” said Bielski. “I want them to know how much we love baseball, to know how much we love them and how much we love sharing these experiences with them. One day they’ll be able to tell their children and their grandchildren that they’re champions. They’ll forever be known as champions. They’ll remember these moments for the rest of their lives.”
Just five years ago Archbishop McCarthy had never won so much as a single game at the state tournament. Now the team has set the standard, and every other team that will ever come behind them will be chasing the history they have made with this magical run.
To wear the Mavericks uniform and be a piece of this historical legacy is a matter of great pride, a membership in an elite club that takes pride in treating the game of baseball with all the reverence and beauty that should define the game.
For the team’s three seniors, Jason Stettner, Quintana and Hernandez, Thusday’s pinnacle moment also marked their last stop as members of this fraternity.
“After the game it hit me that I was never going to be able to do this again. It was really, really emotional,” said Quintana. “But it’s an honor to be able to wear this uniform. Many people would like to be in this situation, to be able to be a part of this team. It’s just an honor. The coaches are amazing, all of them in just teaching us and expecting excellence from us. It’s amazing.”
Coach Bielski could not let the night end without making sure that the men who have helped him build this dynasty were recognized and appreciated for the great contributions they have provided.
“I just attribute it to the quality of my assistants,” said Bielski. “Year in and year out, they’re not just quality baseball guys that know the game; they are quality people. Alex Fernandez lets me focus on what goes on between the lines. He takes care of everything outside the lines so we can just devote that time to getting better. Nelson Santovenia is another former big-leaguer; Cookie Abay and Chris Vazquez are former players of mine who won with me at Hialeah; and Ric Butner is our pitching scientist. We’re all going to celebrate tonight, and I don’t want to think about anything other than what just happened here at jetBlue Park. We are going to celebrate like it’s the fourth one in a row, and like we just set Florida history.”