University School Firing On All Cylinders To Start 2023
The University Sharks (6-1) continued an impressive start to the 2023 season with an 11-5 victory over the Gulliver Prep Raiders (4-3) on Wednesday night at Nova Southeastern University.
For the second-straight night, the Sharks put up 11 runs against a team that was “on the cusp” of a top-10 berth in the Miami Herald’s tri-county rankings. University School only needed five innings to get the job done against Sagemont on Tuesday, and the run rule almost came into effect on Wednesday.
The Sharks scored five in the second inning and four in the third, but the Raiders kept poking away at the lead and only let it get to nine. Gulliver Prep finally got to University School starter Logan Hallaran, a right-handed sophomore, in the sixth for multiple runs in an inning, but the Sharks could afford to give up a few runs by that point
“I’m really happy with our progress,” Shark manager Dan Rovetto said. “We’re closing the gap strength and speed-wise. We’re still starting three freshmen and five sophomores almost every day. We only have just a couple of seniors, so what’s working is that we’re having really competitive at-bats. I think between last night and tonight, we only struck out twice. The competitive nature of our program is definitely translating into the box.”
Freshman designated hitter Mark Manuel led the way for the team with three hits, two runs and an RBI, but there were plenty of other strong offensive performances from the team. Shortstop Isaac Rosa reached base four times with two hits and two walks. Third baseman Isaac Rovetto also had a pair of hits and drove in a run, while center fielder Bradyn Potter and second baseman Devin Mila contributed three RBIs apiece.
“Coach Rovetto always says that he likes to establish trust,” Manuel said. “Him trusting me at such a young age, being a freshman, it means a lot to me. I feel like he can lean on me a lot, especially in these big situations.”
Rovetto trusts Manuel not only at the plate but also on the mound. Manuel came in to close the game out as the third pitcher of the sixth inning and surrendered just two hits as he sealed the sixth victory of the season for his team. Of course, the Sharks don’t get to that point in the game without a strong start from Hallaran that looks worse than it was in the box score because of that sixth inning. Hallaran’s final line saw four earned runs cross over five innings of five-hit baseball with two strikeouts.
“We were prepared to face a really high-caliber opponent,” Hallaran said. “I just came out and executed my game plan that we’ve been preparing all week. We wanted this to be a big statement win, and we executed it. I know I have a great defense behind me, so I just had to let them hit the ball and get the out.”
Gulliver Prep might not have the same high-powered offense it featured a year ago, but there are still five key seniors in place to lead a talented young team. Shortstop George Lombard Jr., a Vanderbilt commit, is one of those seniors, and he knows that there are going to be off days like this at the plate.
“With us, it’s kind of like finding our rhythm,” Lombard said. “It’s a new team this year. We lost a lot of guys. We’re trying to find our stride. It’s tough because we don’t have the crazy roster some of these high schools have, so we just have to battle for every game, every inning. Just kind of scrap for everything we can get. Unfortunately, things didn’t bounce our way today, but we’re going to bounce back Friday and we’ll be good.”
Lombard is doing his part and leading by example. He’s a vocal leader on the field and in the dugout, and consistency is something he thinks is necessary for success. If he can show the rest of the team that he’s able to block out the noise – at least a dozen or so pro scouts were on hand to see Lombard – and focus on what the Raiders are trying to do, then maybe the younger players will be able to do the same.
Of course, one of those younger players is Lombard’s little brother, Jacob, who might have just as many scouts looking at him. He went 1 for 2 on the day and drove in his brother on a two-out single in the sixth. Jacob Lombard’s out wasn’t really on him either. The home-plate umpire called him out on a foul ball that University School’s catcher couldn’t get to, but somebody from the dugout yelled and triggered a “verbal interference.”
“It’s awesome playing with him” George Lombard Jr. said of teaming with his brother. “I got a couple of games with him last year as an eighth grader, but it wasn’t really a full season like we have this year. I was just playing with him in our soccer season right before this, and now baseball season, it’s definitely fun playing with him. It’s fun being on the field with him. It’s definitely something to cherish because it might not happen again. It will be a fun year together.”
George Lombard’s three-hit game led the day for Gulliver Prep and often sparked a scoring opportunity. Catcher Aiden Aparicio homered in the second, left fielder Luca Mendez had two hits, including an RBI single in the third, and Justin Parson drove in a run in the sixth o round out the scoring summary for the Raiders.
“We knew coming into this game, having three games in a week, that the expectation was going to be to outscore the opponent,” Raiders manager Omar Borges said. “We knew that our pitching today, having three games in a week, you’ve got to kind of pace it out. We have a game on Friday, which is against one of our rivals, so we needed to save some pitching and outscore them. It didn’t go our way. In a week like this, one of those games is going to be a slugging fest, and they got the best of us.”
Sometimes, everything clicks for one team and nothing does for the other. The Raiders are now 4-3 and looking to avoid slipping down to a .500 record, and the Sharks have all the momentum in the world coming off a win like this. The competition level might get tougher from here on out though, as teams take a closer look at one of the hotter programs in the county.
“We’re progressing a little bit quicker than I thought we would,” Rovetto admitted. “That just means we have more work to do, and obviously people are going to start taking notice that we are on the rise. So, we’re going to be circled on some calendars by other programs, and that’s something we need to be prepared for.”