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Heritage Headed Back To Defend State Title

American Heritage State Semifinal Press Conference

American Heritage is making a habit out of people overlooking and doubting them, and the Patriots getting the last laugh.

This season, much like last year’s state title team, the Patriots have played a tough schedule, that has kept their record from being what it could have been with a lesser schedule.

Because of that, for a second straight year, not many people though Heritage had a chance to win a state title.

Also for the second straight year, the Patriots are proving people wrong. On Friday, it was Lincoln, out of Tallahassee, that experienced what the Patriots are capable of.

Heritage took an early lead, then fell behind, and battled back, to escape with a 3-2 5A semifinal win.

“We try to block out the outside noise,” said starting pitcher Spencer Krasner. “We know within ourselves, that all season we are working to get better so we are prepared for these games. Today, it was another team effort to get it done. We are confident in the way we can play as a team, and we showed that today.”

Lincoln had the lead for much of the game, taking a 2-1 lead in the second inning, and then cruising through the middle innings. In the fifth, the Patriots were able to tie the game when Rafael Furcal had a one-out single. Pinch-runner Jordan Rich, who has been battling back from injury, came in and stole second, then scored on a Joseph Castro single.

“That stolen base was the biggest play of the game,” said Heritage Manager Bruce Aven. “Jordan gets into scoring position, and allows us the opportunity to tie the game.”

In the sixth inning, the Patriots grabbed the lead on a Sebastian Garavito sacrifice fly to center. Before the sac fly, Garavito had missed getting two squeeze attempts down.

“I coach these guys hard, and with Sebastian, I was letting him know he needed to get those bunts down, but also, that he had to forget about them and finish his at bat and do a job. He was able to do that and hit the sac fly that gave us the lead. It was a big point in the game, and he came through.”

For Garavito, it was a lesson in perseverance at a time when players tend to jump from team to team when they face adversity.

“He came into the season as our third string catcher,” said Aven. “And he ends up our starting catcher, and possibly our team MVP. That is what it takes to give yourself up for the team, and that is what all these guys have bought into. That is why they are one win from a state title.”

To close out their second straight state title will not be an easy task. They will be facing Tampa Jesuit, who has a long history of winning titles themselves under Manager Miguel Menendez. It sets up to be a state title game for the ages.

“We know the history they have, and they are just as accomplished as we are. They will be ready, and we will be ready. It very possibly could come down to one hit or one bounce to decide who wins this title. It should be a fun game to be a part of,” said Aven.

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