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District 5A-16 Preview: Heritage Looks To Repeat

American Heritage will expect no less than a repeat of last year. Pompano Beach will be doing its best to stand in the Patriots’ way.

Here is a preview of what to expect from the district competitors this season.

2012 Record: 25-4
Head Coach: Bruce Aven
Key Returners: Shaun Anderson, Zack Collins, Brandon Diaz, Danny Zardon, Dallas Perez
Newcomers to Watch: CJ Chatham, Dean Pelman
Team Strengths: Offense, experience, team speed, solid defense, leadership, six Division I signees
Team Weaknesses: Lack of pitching depth
Something people not around your program need to know about your team…

“The team is motivated to repeat as state champs. This team has six returning starters from last year’s championship team and wants to win a second consecutive championship.”

When Bruce Aven took over as manager of the American Heritage Patriots in the summer of 2011, there was some shock around the county. Former manager Todd Fitz-Gerald had been at the school for 16 years and his sudden departure left some fans wondering where the Heritage program was headed.

CJ Chatham is a key addition to the Patriots this season.

By late May, that destination became clear: Port St. Lucie, where the Patriots would go on to win two games, securing not only a 5A state championship but also a national championship. It was a ride that the players enjoyed so thoroughly, that they intend on repeating the journey in 2013.

“We all came together right from the beginning last year under Coach Bruce,” said senior leader Zack Collins. “Coach demanded a lot from us, and we responded. I don’t think much has changed this season. We’ve lost a few key players, and we’ve picked up some good ballplayers as well. Our goal is to again have that feeling of winning a state title.”

When teams such as Heritage start winning, the players in the county take notice. This past summer, two of those players were CJ Chatham and Dean Pelman. The pair, who starred for Nova last season, made the move to Heritage, making a dangerous team already returning eight players even more potent. For Pelman, the decision to leave Nova was a tough one but one he feels was for the best.

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2012 Record: 3-12
Head Coach: Anthony Shinhoster
Key Returners: Anthony Moron, Valentino Mastrodemenico, Mike Espinal
Newcomers to Watch: Joshua Martinez Aquino, Mark Pierre
Team Weaknesses: Inexperience
Something people not around your program need to know about your team…

“We are vastly inexperienced, but we will hustle, fight and play the
game hard.”

2012 Record: 12-11-1
Head Coach: Ryan Combs
Key Returners: Matt Fengler, Garrett Hiott, Tyler Keller, Kenny Harrell, Brian Dolan
Team Strengths: Pitching, defense

You would have thought a fire sale was going on over at Pompano Beach since the spring. The team lost its entire outfield, third baseman, catcher and three of its top four arms.

But those who think the Golden Tornadoes are soft this year have another thing coming. Pitching and defense are expected to be pluses for the team this spring, and manager Ryan Combs thinks it “will be real solid up the middle.”

Brian Dolan is a returning pitcher for the Tornadoes.

Matt Fengler, a senior who batted .448 last year, drove in 30 runs and scored 21 as a middle-of-the-lineup hitter, returns at first base.

“He just had an unbelievable year last year and had a great summer,” Combs said of Fengler, who hit six home runs last season. Fengler said he plans on letting his play speak for itself.

“I just want to be a leader by what I do on the field and not trying to push kids,” he said. “If you push yourself, they’re going to push themselves because they just want to be at the same level you are.”

Garrett Hiott comes back at second base, and last year’s leadoff hitter, Shaw Pinnell will anchor second, bringing his .339 average from last spring.

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