Broward High School Baseball
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Flanagan Holds Off Archbishop McCarthy In Game Of The Week

Flanagan’s Nick McDonald delivered six strong innings for the win.

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Forget records.

Forget rankings.

Forget bragging rights.

Friday night’s HSBN Game of the Week was a battle between two great baseball programs hungry to face the best to be the best. The players left it all on the field and competed as if their lives depended on it. When the last shots were fired and the smoke cleared it was host Flanagan that emerged with a 4-2 victory over Archbishop McCarthy.

Several players were banged up along the way and the trainer spent nearly as much time on the field as the players.

“We played very hard tonight and this is like the wounded warriors right now,” agreed Flanagan manager Ray Evans. “We have guys limping around after taking balls off their hands and their feet. Mark Vientos just came back from injury and he got two knocks tonight and played solid defense. It really was a good team win. They all had a hand in it tonight and I’m real proud of these guys. Hopefully this carries over to next week and into the playoffs.”

Flanagan starter Nick McDonald delivered a gutsy performance with six strong innings on the hill to earn the win. The senior right-hander also twice took hard liners right back at him on bullets off the McCarthy bats. Despite those daggers, McDonald stayed in the game.

“This is our biggest game of the year,” McDonald said. “To us, this is our state title game. I really appreciate the team behind me that put up four runs in one inning, and I just shut the door.”

The Falcons (16-4) backed their starter for all their runs during a key third inning. Eric Rivera drew a one-out walk, got into scoring position on a passed ball and then scored on an RBI single from Ricky Presno. Peter Moforis reached on an error and scored when Vientos hit an RBI single to deep right field. Edward Schissler was then hit by a pitch and Dylan O’Connell launched a shot to deep left field to drive in both runners as he slid safely into second base with a 4-0 cushion.

Archbishop McCarthy’s Kobe Lopez celebrates with Austin Genao after scoring in the fifth.

“I knew the pitcher was struggling, so I was basically just waiting on my pitch to get,” O’Connell recalled. “I knew I had to wait for him to come to me and I wasn’t going to chase anything to help him out. He was already struggling and he was tired. You could see in his face and his fatigue was showing. I just decided to get the right pitch and hit it. It was the greatest feeling knowing I could put my team up like that in a special situation.”

McDonald did a nice job of keeping counts in his favor, and then getting swings on his pitches. He surrendered two unearned runs on just two hits and four walks, and he recorded eight strikeouts.

“Getting early in counts is always important, because then I can just play with the hitters,” McDonald said. “There were some batters that I fell behind and I had to go back to the fastball. But for the most part I was money with first-pitch fastballs and first-pitch off-speeds to get ahead in the count.”

The Mavericks answered back to cut the deficit in half in the top of the fifth. Andrew Fernandez reached on an error and then gave way to courtesy-runner Michael Machin, Kobe Lopez walked and Alex Carballo drilled a shot off McDonald’s leg for an infield single that loaded the bases. A throwing error on a pickoff attempt plated two, before McDonald refocused to record a pair of strikeouts that ended the threat.

O’Connell took the mound for the final three outs, as the southpaw drew the ideal match ups in facing three dangerous lefties.

“I couldn’t let anything get to my head,” O’Connell said. “They know who we are and we know who they are. It is a big rivalry. I wasn’t going to let them score at all. Flat out, I couldn’t let a run in. I just wanted to own this county.”

McCarthy threatened again in that seventh frame when the leadoff batter walked and advanced to second thanks to a grounder. But Falcons catcher Alex Hernandez threw the runner out attempting to steal third.

“This win is huge. It’s a good step forward in the season and we were looking to bounce back off that loss to Dwyer,” Hernandez said. “We’re just ready to make a big move here and try to win a state championship.”

Hernandez was a vocal leader all night long. His emotion and exuberance helped fuel the guys to keep pushing until the end.

Flanagan’s Dylan O’Connell waits on the pitch he connected on for the winning two-RBI double.

“It’s very exciting and it is a very humbling process,” Hernandez said of that grind through seven emotional innings of play. “You just have to be in it every pitch. They are a great team and we just battled the whole night and came up with the win.”

Beaten on the field of play for the first time this season, the Mavericks knew they left some plays out there. The club had some uncharacteristic errors and also stranded six runners.

“Our schedule is too tough to go undefeated,” McCarthy manager Rich Bielski said. “I think both teams could’ve played better tonight. There wasn’t an earned run in the game for either team. We will learn from this and use this game to get better.”

With this annual showdown now behind them both, each side focuses on the approaching playoffs and the quest for a state title.

“They’re a top team and you can’t say enough about them every year,” Evans said. “For us to give them that loss tells us we’re playing good baseball right now. We have two big games to play next week to get ready for the playoffs and that’s the push. We wanted to come out and make a statement because we didn’t play well up at Dwyer earlier this week, and they had a guy that served us up a little bit. A win like this gets us right back on the road that we want to be on. My hat’s off to them, but my hat’s off to my guys.”

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