Broward High School Baseball
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North Broward Prep Advances Back To State Title Game

The Eagles celebrate at the end of their 4-1 win over Bishop Verot in the Class 3A state semifinal.

Box Score

The North Broward Prep baseball team arrived at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers for the state Final Four this week, and it gave the team the chance to check their mail, tidy up their lockers and catch up with the Mighty Mussels stadium staff.

OK, so maybe that is a little far-fetched, but after the regularity with which this team has been here to the state tournament these last several seasons it is just crazy enough to actually be true.

The Eagles landed at the Final Four for the fourth straight season, and once again they took care of business in the semifinal to advance to the title game for the fourth consecutive year. North Broward held back a scrappy Bishop Verot Vikings squad to earn a 4-1 victory and a chance for its third state trophy. Champions in 2021 and 2022, before then falling in the final a season ago, now the Eagles (27-3) return once again for the chance to take back the crown.

“Fortunately, we know what to expect,” North Broward Prep Manager Brian Campbell said. “We’re a senior-led team, and a lot of our seniors have been here every four years, since they were freshmen. So, the routine of getting here early and doing stuff on the side fields, it is something you have to get used to. But Bishop Verot had an advantage with the crowd; they had home-field advantage with that crowd. We won the game because Mateo Gray pitched excellent, we did enough offensively and we played really good defense. If we do those three things, we are a pretty good baseball team.”

The Eagles certainly proved they are a pretty good baseball team by the way they shut down a dangerous Bishop Verot squad, one that also benefited from a huge crowd of fans that showed out in support of the local team. Mateo Gray went the distance to earn the complete-game victory, the Eagles struck early to score all their runs in the first two frames, and the defense made all the plays when it mattered most.

“We had a well-played baseball game,” Campbell said. “Mateo controlled the game on the mound. He bent a couple of times but never broke, and it was a good team win. But we didn’t come here to win the semifinal, so we’re going to get some rest and get back after it tomorrow and hopefully win a title.”

Kiernan O’Neill connects for one of his three hits on the day to lead the Eagles’ offense.

North Broward will take on a familiar opponent from down in South Florida, as the Westminster Christian Warriors also advanced with a 6-4 win over the Trinity Christian Conquerors in Tuesday’s other 3A semifinal. Now the two will meet in Wednesday’s championship, set for a 2:00 PM start.

Gray was impressive on the bump, providing leadership and inspiration by how he gutted it out in the hot sun for the full seven innings. In doing so, it also preserved the rest of the pitching staff to now be available for the title game. He surrendered one earned run on five hits and two walks, and he struck out six.

“I just tried to do the same old usual,” Gray said. “I don’t want to change things up too much, because for me it is just another game. I just do what I love; getting ahead and attacking the guys and trusting my guys behind me.”

The guys behind him got the offense going right away to provide immediate run support, as the Eagles struck for all the runs they needed in the bottom of the first. Kiernan O’Neill led off with a single to left and T.J. Gramesty drew a four-pitch walk. Riley Luft then got the scoring started with an RBI single to left. After Gian De Castro walked to provide another base runner, Gramesty came home on an error and Luft followed thanks to an RBI single to center from Max Burkholz.

“I think it may be the first time that we’ve had a lead in Fort Myers and we didn’t have to play from behind,” Campbell said. “It was very important for us to come out of the gates early, and the guys responded and I’m super proud of them. With Mateo on the mound and the way we were playing defense, we were going to be a hard team to beat today. We always want to get out of the gates early; that’s not anything new to the tournament. That’s just how we play our season.”

Mateo Gray also exhibited his mental toughness to block out the noise from the throngs of Bishop Verot fans that showed up to cheer on their team.

It was O’Neill who continued to provide the spark, as he connected for a double when he came up with one out in the second. Gramesty followed with a base hit to left to drive him in for the Eagles’ fourth and final run.

“The lead-off spot is pretty important,” O’Neill said. “You are starting off the game, so a lot of pressure is on you. I don’t try to do too much, as a junior I look up to these seniors. So I always ask for advice what I can do better and what I can do to contribute to the victory. Today, I had a great day, but everyone contributed to the win today. That really helped me focus for my success today.”

The Vikings avoided the shutout and got on the scoreboard in the fourth, thanks to a solo home run from Joseph Lawson. But that was as close as they could get, as every other scoring threat was thwarted by Gray recording a big strikeout to end the inning. Although he has an arsenal of pitches, Gray trusted his lethal changeup to get him out of the big moments against left-handed batters.

“It’s a lefty-killer,” Gray said. “I just love throwing to lefties, and I’ll throw at least one every at bat to a lefty. It’s kind of my bread-and-butter to lefties. It was my best pitch, so I knew I had to throw it there.”

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