Hollywood Hills Advances Past South Broward
The Hollywood Hills Spartans needed an extra inning and clutch defense to edge the South Broward Bulldogs 3-2 in eight innings. After a short delay due to lightning in the area, the two District 7A-15 rivals squared off at Len Koch Field on the South Broward campus.
These two teams were not strangers to close battles as they had met twice before in 2015. The two earlier games ended with one-run victories for the Bulldogs. That changed on Monday evening, as Hollywood Hills came out the 3-2 victor in the District Quarterfinal game.
In a game that was neck-and-neck throughout, the Spartans pushed across the deciding run in the top of the eighth inning. The Spartan’s Rafael Alvarez got things started by legging out a single deep to the shortstop. Alvarez moved to second on a well-placed sacrifice bunt by Ariel Hernandez. Oscar Martez was hit by a pitch, Alvarez stole third base and a walk loaded the bases for centerfielder Anthony Shambari, who worked a walk to force in the deciding run.
The Bulldogs attempted to mount a rally in the bottom of the eighth. With one out, Jacob Ayala was hit by a pitch. The next batter up, Chris Cortello, was also hit by a pitch. Manager Thomas Marante had a conference on the mound with his pitcher, Erik Calderon.
“He had thrown a curveball that hit Cortello,” Marante said. “I told him, ‘let’s not mess around; bring some heat’,”
The talk worked, as Calderon stuck out Bryan Luzon and catcher Andre Palacious nailed Ayala trying to steal third to end the ballgame.
“I didn’t think he was going to steal, but my instinct took over and when I saw him break, I was ready,” Palacious said. “It feels good to win and we get to play again tomorrow.”
South Broward ( 5-18) managed only one hit in the eight-inning duel. The Bulldogs did show patience at the plate by getting eight walks, and took some bruises as they had five hit batsman. Starting pitcher Chris Opitz got on base three times on a walk and twice getting hit by pitches. Opitz did well on the mound, giving up two runs in six innings pitched. He surrendered four hits and had five strikeouts. Ayala scored once for the Bulldogs and Steven Fondeur tallied the other run for South Broward.
“Opitz is a ninth grader. He pitched great. He gave us a chance to win,” Bulldogs Manager Charlie Cardinale spoke about his starting pitcher. “We made some costly mistakes and I feel bad for the seniors. I know they wanted to win and keep playing. Our program will move on from here.”
Alvarez had two hits for Hollywood Hills and scored two runs, including the winner. Third baseman, Miguel Gonzalez, made an outstanding fielding play to get the first out in the final inning and Palacious was solid behind the plate. Spartans starting pitcher Stephen Richards threw three and two-third innings, giving up two runs while striking out seven. Calderon was solid in relief, stifling the Bulldogs through the final four and-a-third innings with seven strikeouts and no hits.
Hollywood Hills (6-12) has very little time to celebrate as it faces off against powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas on Tuesday evening in the District Semifinal.
“We are a young team. We have been learning and finding out how to overcome some obstacles,” Marante stated. “We’ve got St. Thomas tomorrow and I just told the guys that we will be ready. I told them that St. Thomas is good, but they have to show up tomorrow and play on the field. We gave them a tough battle last year, so you never know.”