Broward High School Baseball
Mastering the Mental Side of Baseball

American Heritage Blanks Archbishop McCarthy For District Title

The Patriots celebrate after winning the 6A-15 district championship 5-0 over Archbishop McCarthy.

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American Heritage and Archbishop McCarthy are two quality teams with differing strengths that they rely on. Squaring off in the district championship for the third straight year, it was the visiting Patriots whom were able to lean on their strengths to pave the way to a 5-0 victory and a 6A-15 title.

“We do a lot of planning on this team, and obviously we see them a couple times each year,” Tristan Casas said. “They are the best team in our county, so certainly we do a lot of planning. We try to see where we want to go with pitches and we know what they want to do with us. We’ve been playing them for a lot of years now and they are a great team with great players.”

As Heritage manager Bruce Aven related following the win, the Patriots play to contact to hit the ball up the middle and will bunt and do other things to generate offense. On the mound the club relied on a pitching staff that is familiar with McCarthy’s offensive approach of getting guys on base and driving them in behind a lineup full of power from top to bottom.

Led by starter Israel Cordero, Heritage (18-4) was successful in pitching away from the Mavericks’ strengths and into their own. Cordero was impressive over five innings, keeping McCarthy (24-2) from scoring while scattering five hits and three walks and picking up four strikeouts.

“This is baseball; if you hit your locations you can go out there and beat a lot of people,” Aven said. “We have to make sure that we keep the ball down and Izzy did a good job tonight. He pounded the zone. Just hit spots and go in and out. I don’t care if you’re in high school, college or pros, the pitcher is going to win the battle more times than the hitters doing that.”

After reliever Cody Cortelli tossed a scoreless sixth with two strikeouts, Casas came on and closed out the seventh. Casas worked around a single up the middle to Kobe Lopez and a walk to Alex Toral by striking out the side, getting a called third strike right down the middle to close out the contest and spark the Patriots’ celebration.

Casas also ignited the offense with the biggest hit of the night, a three-run home run blasted off the scoreboard in left field in the top of the third. Damian Serralta singled up the middle and Kyle Carter pulled off a bunt attempt to instead slash a base hit, before a fielder’s choice from Alfonso Guillen erased Serralta at third. Casas then jumped on a 1-0 offering to drill the ball for all the runs Heritage needed.

As thrilling as that moment was, Casas admitted that getting that final out was the greatest feeling of all.

Tristan Casas is congratulated by teammates after hitting a three-run home run for the deciding runs.

“Getting that last out and seeing my teammates run out to me with their water bottles, I just felt a sense of pride that all my hard work has been paying off so far,” Casas said. “Certainly the home run I hit felt good. I hadn’t hit one since February, so I wasn’t really thinking about hitting a home run right there but was just trying to hit a fly ball and get that lead runner in. It just happened to go over the fence.”

Travis Holt followed Casas’ longball with a triple to deep left field, and scored on a sacrifice-flyout from Santiago Garavito. Jacob Pino was hit by a pitch an inning later and scored the final run of the night after Anthony Boix and Serralta singled to load the bases and Carter was hit by a pitch to drive Pino in.

“American Heritage played a great game and tonight was their night,” said Mavericks manager Rich Bielski. “They pitched well, they hit the ball very well and my hat’s off to them. I congratulate them on a district championship.”

While Heritage was able to capitalize on its biggest chances, the Mavericks were unable to come up with the clutch hits that are customary to their program. McCarthy stranded nine runners in all.

“To beat McCarthy you have to play flawless baseball,” Aven said. “You can’t help them out, and the last time we played them we made so many mistakes that you can’t come back from that against Archbishop McCarthy. One-to-nine can change the score for you, and as lineups go they have more power than anybody else around all on one team, where each guy can change it for them. So you have to keep tacking on and tacking on. You can never tell when those bats will open up.”

Archbishop McCarthy’s Austin Genao pitched two-and-a-third scoreless relief innings.

Heritage had some big defensive plays that also played a large part in the shutout. Guillen set that tone from third base against McCarthy’s first batter, fielding a chopper bare-handed and firing the ball across the diamond for the 5-3 poutout. Garavito threw out a base runner trying to steal in the third and then was the recipient of a perfect throw from Serralta on a bases-loaded line-out to left that went for a 7-2 double play to catch the runner attempting to tag up and score on the blast.

Both sides advance to the regional playoffs next week, with Heritage hosting Miami Springs and McCarthy traveling to the 6A-16 champion Goleman Gators. Last season Heritage won the district title and the Mavericks ran the table from there to win their fifth state title in six years. To get a sixth state crown the club will have to repeat that feat this season.

“This puts us in a position where we’re going to have to go play a tough Miami Goleman team, and that is what we are going to be focused on now,” Bielski said. “We’ve been the road warriors before; we did it last year. That’s what we’re looking forward to doing again.”

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