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Pembroke Pines Charter Counting On Experience

The Jaguars prepare to charge forward into a new three-team district with Boynton Beach and Stranahan.

It is a great comfort for a coach when he returns the vast majority of his roster like the Pembroke Pines Jaguars do.

Entering his eighth season at the head of the program, Carlos Iglesias knows that all the right pieces are in place for this group to have a special season. These players know what it takes and the kind of baseball they have to play to achieve their goals, and they have the experience to reach them.

With the team slated for a new three-team district, the Jaguars know they have the opportunity to control their own destiny by taking care of business in the district against Boynton Beach and Stranahan. The teams will only meet once each, and the number one seed in the district will earn an automatic bid in the district championship game as well as a regional playoff berth.

“The number one seed will also be the home team for the first round, so that’s what we’re going to be working for,” said Iglesias. “We want to get that number one seed and then take it one game at a time.”

The Jaguars provide stability and experience in a district that features two other teams with new managers in 2014. The squad realizes that they have the opportunity to take advantage of the development they have gone through to remain confident without becoming complacent and overlooking each step it will take to be successful. In losing a district opponent like Archbishop McCarthy, the Jaguars lose a foe that helped to expose them and let them see where they needed to improve.

This team has always played hungry and aggressive, and Iglesias has always seemed to find the magic recipe to get his players to finish strong and play their best at the end of the season when it matters most. This group of players has tested some success during their playing careers, and now these veterans look to enjoy more than just a taste of things. This bunch has grown together and they play for one another.

“We’re a really close team and we hang out before school, after school and on the weekends. We preach getting each other’s back and always picking each other up,” said senior pitcher Danny Melgarejo. “On the field, in the classroom, or in the dugout, we do that anywhere. We have a lot of hunger and we want to get the wins to prove that we are just as good as anyone.”

Melgarejo returns to anchor a strong pitching staff this year. The right-hander pitched in key games last season and he knows what the coaches expect of him. He pitches well under pressure and has performed to task during the fall in preparation of the season ahead. The third year starter recorded 24 strikeouts in 17 innings last season, but now he can expect a much larger workload.

“Danny is going to be our number one,” said Iglesias. “He’s got all of the pitches. We’re expecting big things from him; he’s going to be our ace out there. In big games we’re going to give him the ball and we’re going to go as far as he takes us. We have a lot of confidence in him.”

Danny Melgarejo is primed for a breakout senior season.

Melgarejo recently signed with Bethune-Cookman, and he is poised for a memorable senior season. Although he is quick to point out the strength of the guys around him, such as Brett Ayalon and Anthony Gomez, he also understands that it is his time to shine and lead the way.

“I’m probably going to take the ball in the big games this year,” said Melgarejo. “I’m ready for it and I’m excited about it. When I’m playing against tougher competition I seem to rise up and pitch my best. My dad always tells me I’ve got to pitch like that against everybody. I just have a switch in my head and I don’t really know. I just give it my all.”

The junior Ayalon has come back this season poised for a breakout campaign. Iglesias has noticed a tremendous improvement from last year and he knows Ayalon worked hard all summer long to get better and the difference is showing on the field. Ayalon wants to be one of the main guys this year and it shows in his body language and how he prepares himself.

The way this team prepares itself is built off of the coaching staff, a group who has been with Iglesias for a while. They try to teach them as much as possible, and the guys buy into the program. The players have a lot of respect and they communicate well with the coaches. They learn to work and they believe in what they work for.

“The best attribute to our coaching staff is their drive,” said Iglesias. “Our pitching coach Andy Moser, he does magic with our pitchers. Then my assistant head coach Willie Hernandez works so hard to get them ready. Then David Monge and Marcos Gonzalez will do everything we need.”

The area the team works the most is on its hitting, and they take a lot of swings. Everyday the coaches emphasize to stay within yourself and work on taking the ball the other way, working the breaking pitch and improving the fundamentals. In order to finish strong they must go strong every single day and show lots of heart. Teams must hit in the end when it matters most.

Leading the offense in 2014 will be junior first baseman Daniel Rodriguez-Velez, a stout slugger who earned his stripes playing behind departed senior Cody Fuchs. Rodriguez-Velez, Alex Monge-Rodriguez and Jake Jacobs figure to play prominent roles in leading the offense. The hitters know there is a great window open for them and they work to improve everyday.

Jake Jacobs returns to hit atop a solid Jaguars lineup.

“We’re just trying to put runs on the scoreboard,” said Rodriguez-Velez. “We don’t have a lot of power on the team so we are trying to get base hit after base hit and keep it going. I want to help keep the team going and carry them on my back. We always want to get more work and get better everyday.”

Coach Iglesias loves that his team is always working, that they always hunger for more fly balls or ground balls to catch, or a few more swings in the cages. The players want to make this season something special and they are putting in the work to make it happen.

“They are never satisfied, and it’s a good thing to have,” said Iglesias. “It’s not just one player; they all want more fly balls, more ground balls. As a coaching staff, if they want to do that, you know something special is going to happen.”

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