All-Star Event A Huge Success; 1A-4A Takes Down 5A-6A With Walk-Off
In baseball, fans have become accustomed to saying the words “walk-off.” The term refers to when the home team scores the run to win the game in their last at-bat. On Saturday night in the inaugural BrowardHighSchoolBaseball.com Senior All-Star game, the term walk-off took on its most literal meaning.
With arms running thin, 5A-6A Head Coach Pat McQuaid brought Flanagan ace Mike Melendez back into the game with the bases loaded. Melendez struck out the first batter he faced, but then walked in the winning run on a questionable 3-1 pitch, giving the 1A-4A team a 10-9 win over 5A-6A. Many in attendance believed the pitch looked good enough to be a strike.
The game had all the makings of a classic right from the start. Hall-of Fame Head Coaches McQuaid and Rich Hofman led the squads, and their presence was seen throughout. Two coaches that have commanded respect throughout the years, they set the tone in a mid-week practice that this would not be just another all-star game.
McQuaid and Hofman told their teams of the perception that larger-class schools had the better talent. The 1A-4A squad continually showed that not to be the case as they fought back from two separate deficits late in the game, before finally rallying to win in the ninth.
The game had a little bit of everything. Melendez and Ron Patella from Nova were both called on to pitch late in the game after throwing early in the game for the 5A-6A team. In the ninth, the two Hall-of Fame coaches both were prepared to play the game to win. McQuaid employed his famous five-man infield, bringing George Gugino in to play between short and third, while leaving the outfield with only two players, in left-center and right-center.
Hofman was prepared to combat that strategy had the 3-1 pitch been called a strike. “If the count went to 3-2, I was going to try and squeeze the winning run home,” said Hofman after the game.
The game featured the first-ever in Broward County that included both teams from private and public schools. The players took the hint of the coaches at practice on Wednesday, and when Saturday night came, both teams played hard from the first pitch to the last, something rarely seen in an All-Star game.
Kevin Knapp, from Coral Springs Christian, threw three innings for the 1A-4A team, working out of several jams, and won the All-Star Game MVP Award for his squad. On the other side, John Kennedy from South Plantation used his bat and his legs to capture the MVP award for the 5A-6A squad.
This night showcased some of the top talent in Broward County, with many of the players already committed to Division I colleges. In addition, the atmosphere in the stands was electric for the entire evening. With BrowardHighSchoolBaseball.com All-County winners being revealed in-between each inning, the fans were captivated, with many not leaving their seats the entire game.
Vendors, commemorative All-Star cookies, in-game trivia challenges in the stands, and a beautiful night for baseball all contributed to make the first BHSB All-Star game a huge success.
Before the game, two legendary coaches, Sonny Hansley and George Petik, both of whom retired following the season, were honored. Hansley also threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Melissa Riggi, a graduating Coral Springs Charter senior sang the National Anthem, and from there, it was the players who provided the commendable show on the field.
As for the big awards on the night, Brian Campbell of North Broward Prep, and Rich Bielski, from Archbishop McCarthy, were named co-Coaches of the Year.
North Broward Prep’s Jose Lazaro took home the BHSB Pitcher of the Year Award, with Jason Hepple from Highlands Christian winning the Hitter of the Year honor. The Player of the Year was Alexander Fernandez, from the state-champion Archbishop McCarthy Mavericks.
Professional pictures were taken of the All-Stars and the All-County teams at Wednesday’s practice, and action shots were also taken at the game. To check out the pictures, click here.
As we close our first season at BrowardHighSchoolBaseball.com, we would like to thank all of the coaches, fans, and players who have cooperated with us. The cooperation has led to a foundation of the best high school baseball community in the nation, and this is only after year one. In the future, we look forward to continuing to work tirelessly in order to provide the hard-working players and coaches the exposure they rightly deserve. We hope everyone has a great summer, and we will see you all again in the Fall!!