Perfect Game USA has named Archbishop McCarthy (FL) the 2011 High School National Champion.
The Mavericks finished the year 29-3, capping off a spectacular season with a 4-1 win over Tampa Jesuit in the FHSAA 4A title game.
After winning the 2010 4A title and making the Florida State finals four years running, McCarthy’s sights were set on the state title from the time the season began.
“They wanted to start the playoffs in January,” said Head Coach Rich Bielski, “every game was just one step closer to playoff time.”
Bielski returned a loaded senior class, but did have to deal with the loss of 3B and #3 hitter Nick Castellanos, drafted by the Detroit Tigers with the 44th pick of the 2010 draft. The Mavericks also knew going into the season that the target would be on their back and they would see everyone’s ace.
Luckily, Bielski had been in the exact situation before, winning the 2001 6A title with Hialeah and coming back the next year to repeat as champions.
“That experience, no doubt, was a big benefit,” he said. “Winning a state title is special and repeats in Florida just don’t happen.”
It all started with pitching for the Mavericks as they allowed two or less runs in five or their first six games, the only exception being the first loss of the season, to American on February 18.
The Mavericks continued to roll after the loss, and after starting the year #12 in the PG National Rankings, stayed in the top 20 throughout the year.
On April 18, the Mavericks picked up one of their biggest wins of the year, beating a talented Florida Christian team 11-8 at Sun Life Stadium, home of the Florida Marlins.
From that point, the Mavericks pitching went from very strong to dominant as it started a stretch of nine straight games allowing less than three runs, a streak that would continue the rest of the season.
Once the calendar turned to May, the long awaited playoffs finally began as McCarthy picked up easy wins over Belen Jesuit and Key West to set up a Regional Championship matchup with Eau Gallie, alma mater of Brewers 1B Prince Fielder. The Mavericks bested the Commodores 3-1 and took down Wakulla 4-2 in the state semifinal to set up a matchup with Tampa Jesuit, the same team that they beat in the 2010 title game.
In that game a year ago, McCarthy did something that teams had been unable to do all year, beat Jesuit LHP Daniel Gibson, the 2010 4A Player of the Year. Gibson, currently a freshman at the University of Florida, came into the game 14-0 before McCarthy’s 6-1 victory to claim the title.
This year, the task was no easier as they would face Jesuit’s new ace, junior RHP Lance McCullers, the top ranked player in the class of 2012, whose fastball had been clocked as high as 97 mph.
“We were looking forward to the challenge. We faced him last year and knew he would be bigger, stronger, and better,” said Bielski.
The Mavericks countered with RHP Alex Fernandez, the Miami commit and 4A Player of the Year who not only hit .470 with four homeruns and 49 RBI while facing the unenviable task of replacing Nick Castellanos as the Mavs #3 hitter, but went 11-0 with a 2.39 ERA on the mound.
The pitchers traded scoreless frames over the first two innings as the Mavericks offense struggled with McCullers’ power repertoire, striking out four times.
In the top of the third McCarthy #9 hitter RF Adam Duarte singled with one out, and after a strikeout moved up on a stolen base. Next, Nick Basto walked setting the stage for Alex Fernandez at the plate.
After working the count to 2-1 Fernandez drove a McCullers fastball over the left-field fence for a three-run homer, surprising maybe even himself and giving the Mavericks a 3-0 lead.
“He shocked the world with that one,” remembers Bielski. “McCullers was so dominant, throwing so well, no one expected that.”
The Mavericks would not relinquish the lead as Fernandez worked into the 4th inning, before giving way to hard-throwing junior RHP Nick Travieso, who got out of a first and second, no out jam in that inning. Travieso struck out four in his 3 1/3 innings before RHP Jose Brizuela got the final two outs to clinch McCarthy's second straight state title, 4-1.
The win was the Mavericks 19th in 20 games, their tenth in a row. In the Florida State Playoffs their pitching staff surrendered three earned runs in the five games. For the season, their pitching had an ERA of 2.08, striking out 271 batters in 197 innings.
Like Fernandez, junior ace LHP Andre Martinez was dominant on the mound, going 12-2 with a 1.50 ERA, striking out 96 in 54 innings. Florida State commit Brizuela served as the Mavericks closer during the season, finishing with a 1.58 ERA and 5 saves, striking out 37 in 17 2/3 innings, and had a huge year at the plate, batting .477 with 7 home runs, including a 3-run shot in the 6th inning of the state semifinal victory over Wakulla.
LF/DH Ivan Santos had a big senior season batting .441, and RF Adam Duarte came up big in the post season with his skills on the bases as well as throwing out runners in each of the final two games. Senior C Garrett Kennedy, a Miami commit, and CF Chris Thompson, a Florida Gulf Coast commit, are two more Mavericks standouts who had big seasons.
The future also looks bright for the Mavericks as they attempt to make it six straight state finals appearance and three state titles in 2012. Martinez returns to lead the pitching staff, followed by Travieso, who struck out 30 with a 1.94 ERA in 18 innings, and is also a power-hitting first baseman. Nick Basto will be back as shortstop and #2 hitter and Bielski looks for major contributions from a 2014 class that he calls the most talented freshman class in his tenure.
McCarthy also boasts one of the best coaching staffs in the country led by Bielski, the 2010 and 2011 Sun-Sentinel Coach of the Year, who reached 300 wins for his career and now has four state titles under his belt. McCarthy’s assistants also have impressive resumes led by former big leaguers RHP Alex Fernandez and C Nelson Santovenia, who are joined by well respected pitching coach Ric Butner and bench coach Cookie Abay. The Mavericks will again be the team to beat in Florida and one of the top teams in the nation in 2012.
But they have until February to celebrate an extraordinary 2011 season.
Congratulations to the Mavericks players and coaches on back-to-back 4A titles and the 2011 Perfect Game High School National Championship.
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