Broward High School Baseball
HSBN Prospects

Douglas Wins 4th Straight 7A Title In Walk-Off Fashion

6-5 over 11 games. That was the stretch the Douglas Eagles baseball team faced back over the last week of March and the first two weeks of April.

At that time, I remember getting texts and phone calls asking what was wrong with Douglas, that their dynasty may be coming to an end this year. This year’s team didn’t have what it takes to be a champion.

Fast-forward to Saturday evening, and the Eagles answered all those critics in dramatic fashion. After righting the ship late in the year, Douglas went on their usual playoff run, and finished it off with a thrilling 3-2, extra-inning win over Widermere.

“A lot of people doubted us,” said Eagles shortstop Devin Fitz-Gerald. “But we knew that we were going to get it right. We work hard every day, and we have a lot of pride in this program and what the teams before us did, and we weren’t going to let that tradition fall just because of a tough stretch. We showed tonight that we are still the champions.”

The game started out like Douglas would cruise, as they scored two runs in the first inning. With
Jayden Dubanewicz on the hill, Windermere had their work cut out for them.

The Wolverines were up for the task. After the rough first inning, Windermere turned to freshman Joey Waddingham came in and threw 6.1 innings, allowing only one earned run, while striking out 11 Eagles batters.

In the fifth inning, down 2-0, Windermere tied the game with two runs of their own. From there the game remained tied into the sixth. The Wolverines loaded the bases, but Douglas reliever Luke Cherry came in and got out of a bases loaded, one-out jam.

It was the second straight night the Eagles reliever came up big late in the game.

“Honestly, I wasn’t nervous at all,” said Cherry. “The coaches have put me in these positions many times, and I am used to it. I just had to worry about executing my pitches, and I was able to do that tonight.”

After nobody scored in the seventh, Cherry worked a quick top of the eighth inning. Douglas then loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning with two outs, and Nick Diaz stepped to the plate. Diaz hit a big home run in the semifinal game, and now was in a spot to come up big again.

Diaz proceeded to line a 2-2 pitch to left field for the game-winning single, sending the Eagles dugout chasing their new hero around the field as they won their fourth straight state title, a record for public schools in the state of Florida.

“The at bat started with a fastball high, then he went curve ball fastball. I got the count to 2-2, and then I was looking for one pitch, got it, and was able to hit it for the single to win the game. To contribute to our success two days in a row and come up big in special.”

Equally special for the Eagles was the ending of an era for Manager Todd Fitz-Gerald and his sons. Fitz-Gerald’s older son, Hunter, graduated from Douglas in 2019, and Devin was a senior this season. Devin was one of the Douglas players that was on all four Eagles state champions during their current run.

“I love winning the championship tonight, but its bittersweet,” said a choked up (Todd) Fitz-Gerald. “This was the last game I will ever coach one of my sons. We have the state all-star game in a couple weeks, so I guess that will be the last time officially, but this is it in a Douglas uniform. It is emotional.”

The younger Fitz-Gerald agreed.

“Having my dad coach me, and having today be our last game, it is special. It is something I will never forget. It makes it even more special that we were able to finish off and achieve all of our goals, and win this state title.”

While the win ends a great four year run for several Douglas seniors, Fitz-Gerald and his younger guys are already looking to next year.

“It’s time for the drive for five,” said Fitz-Gerald.

That drive will have to include some re-tooling, but there are several players returning that have learned about how to carry on tradition, one of them being junior Cherry.

“I have learned so much from Devin and these other seniors about how to be a leader, and what is expected for us to stay at this level,” said Cherry. “Now it is time for us to take the torch and run with it, and we will be ready to do that come the Fall.”

Douglas finished the season 26-5.

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