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Offensive Firepower Leads Mater Lakes Past American Heritage

The American Heritage dugout

Having already outscored their first four opponents by an eyepopping 56-4 to start the season a perfect 4-0, surely the Mater Lakes Academy Bears would get a dose of reality on Thursday night.

After all, now they had to hit the road and go play No. 13 nationally-ranked Plantation American Heritage, a team with a stacked pitching staff loaded with FBS commits.

But what everybody found out over the nearly three-and-half hours it took to play this one is that the Bears, after coming within an eyelash of advancing to the state final four a year ago, are back in full force. A stacked team on a mission with no plans of taking any prisoners.

That became quite evident following Thursday night’s impressive 11-5 dismantling of the Patriots.

Heritage started University of Virginia commit Evan Dobias. He didn’t get past the third inning. In came University of Central Florida commit Brandon Gonsalves. Gone in the fifth. In came University of Florida commit Erik Blair. Replaced in the sixth by Quin Spalding.

All night long, new Heritage manager Mike Macey threw pitcher after pitcher out there and it didn’t matter. The bats in the Mater Lakes dugout were dancing their way out to home plate as a team loaded with offense showed off the firepower again wrapping out a dozen hits and 11 more runs. Mater Lakes came into the game with a team batting average of over .400 and is now averaging more than 13 runs per game.

“This is the result of a lot of hard work around here,” said Mater Lakes manager Albert Osorio. “We go Monday through Saturday around here and don’t take days off. My assistant coaches do a great job of preparing the team so it’s not just about me and the kids, it’s about my coaching staff as well.”

It was last May that Osorio and his coaches had to peel their kids up off the ground following a devastating loss to North Broward Prep. in a regional final. Just when it looked like an Andy Hernandez two-out, bases loaded base hit in the last of the seventh was going to send them to Fort Myers came an incredible throw from left field that cut down the winning run at the plate.

Mater Lakes starting pitcher Andrew Tano went five-plus innings to record the win.

NBP went on to punch their ticket to Fort Myers instead by scoring a run in the next inning and eventually capture the state title.

“That loss drives us like you wouldn’t believe,” said first baseman Damian Hernandez. “That’s all we thought about during the offseason, that heartbreak we went through of having come so close to states and then having to watch the other team celebrate when it was over. It sticks with us and is a driving force behind everything that we do. Even the few new guys we have on the team, we remind them of what happened last season and that this season it’s time to take the next step.”

Hitting fourth in the lineup, Hernandez combined with No. 5 hitter Joseph Mincey on Thursday night to go a combined 5-for-7 at the plate with one double apiece and a total of six RBIs.

“We’ve definitely got some bats on this team” said Mincey who barely missed a home run to left field in the third inning, settling for a 2-RBI double that put his team up 4-1. “Everytime I come up, every at-bat I just think about swinging the crap out of the ball. I never started a season like this before and this is a season we’re looking forward to. We know that we’ve got everybody back from that team last year that came so close to making it to states, now we’re on a mission.”

Even after the Bears took a 4-1 lead in the third, Heritage didn’t go anywhere. The Patriots battled back with two runs in the bottom of the inning to cut their deficit to one.

Heritage runner Spencer Butt gets back safely to first on a pickoff attempt as Mater Lakes first baseman Damian Hernandez fields the ball.

But sloppy defense all night in the field with three errors plus a bad mental error proved costly to Heritage. The mental error came in the top of the fifth when Mater Lakes’ Michael Mojica literally stole home. That when Patriots catcher Mateo Serna didn’t look him back to third on a throw back to Blair and when Blair looked the other way walking back to the mound, Mojica bolted for home beating the throw.

Mojica’s hustle play gave the Bears their three run lead back at 6-3 and, after Heritage plated one run in the bottom of the inning to keep it close, they put things away with a three run sixth, a two-RBI double by Hernandez highlighting the inning.

“They (Mater Lakes) came ready to play from the get-go and I just don’t know that we brought our best effort tonight,” said Macey. “Three errors, the big mental mistake between the catcher and the pitcher, we just didn’t have good at-bats either. There wasn’t much positive I could say about tonight. It was a humbling experience for our guys and I think maybe we needed it. I think our kids got to the point where they came in here tonight thinking ‘we’re 3-0, top 15 in the country’ and sometimes maybe you need to get knocked down a rung or two and get your feet back on the ground. Now we’ll see how we bounce back and go from here. We’re young but we’re talented and scrappy and it’s just a matter of getting all these kids to believe.”

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