HSBN College Prospects

Rick Duteau

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The opportunity to play on a college field provided plenty of spark for the young Futures Players competing in the HSBN All American Weekend games Sunday at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field at the University of Miami. Performing on a grand stage in front of fans and Hurricanes coaches, the players on both sides showed just how bright the future could be should some of them end up playing there again as college athletes someday. Getting a taste of that experience fueled many players to rise to their best and seize their moment.

“We are playing in front of scouts and the school in your hometown where you want to play someday,” said iMater freshman catcher Roberto Moya.

While many participants call South Florida home, numerous others came from further away to enjoy this chance to play at this stadium and compete with the other HSBN Futures Players.

“I got to see different talent from everyone and it was just a learning experience for me,” said Justin Turk, who came from Steinbrenner High in the Tampa area. “The coaches got to see us and it was a great experience for me to get to show my talent.”

Following a weekend that began with a home run derby presented by the POWER SHOWCASE, followed by workouts at St. Thomas University, players converged at UM for Sunday’s live games. The day began with two contests from the HSBN Futures Stars groups.

Green Team 2, Orange Team 0

Despite flirting with danger all game long, the Green team managed the shutout even though the Orange squad collected eight hits. The Orange team only put two runners past second base and struggle against the Green’s pitching throughout.

Mater Academy’s Ramses Hernandez got things going with three strikeouts in the first inning and then an RBI double in the second that gave his team the lead. Hernandez allowed consecutive singles to Archbishop McCarthy’s MC Sagaro and SLAM’s Anthony Nunez before working out of the threat. After Archbishop McCarthy’s JM Fay singled up the middle and advanced on a fielder’s choice, Hernandez sent a liner into the left-center field gap.

“It was a great experience for me and I hope I can do the same again next year,” Hernandez said. “This was the best experience of my life.”

South Miami’s Michael Cabo came home for an insurance run in the seventh. After reaching on an error, Cabo advanced thanks to a double from Southridge’s Henry Wallen, then scored on an RBI single from Mater Academy’s Alex Aguila.

The Orange team’s pitching staff was also tough to hit off to keep them in the game. Coral Reef freshman Victor Mederos turned the most heads with a fastball that reached as high as 92 miles per hours during a scoreless inning in which he struck out the side. Merritt Island’s Chase LeBlanc, Coral Park’s Julio Silva, Carlos Rodriguez and St. Brendan’s Kevin Martin all picked up two strikeouts during their respective innings of work.

Both sides also flashed some nice defensive abilities. Enjoying the advantage of the immaculate playing surface at the Miami Hurricanes’ home, players were fearless in diving and going all-out to make a play.

“It was a great experience playing at the University of Miami and it’s an honor,” said FLVS’s Matthew Corlew, who made several impressive plays Sunday. “I was just going out there having fun and letting loose. I don’t try to think too much about it; just go out there and do what I do. It is a joy and everybody is going crazy and slapping me high five. I love it.”

Gray Team 5, Maroon Team 0

Eleven pitchers took a turn for the Gray squad and they all kept the shutout going for nine full innings. They combined to throw 91 pitches in all and watched nine batters strike out against them.

“It was a great experience overall and I caught nine innings,” said catcher Roberto Moya, who was behind the plate the whole way on Sunday to do his part in the shutout. “The pitchers looked great and we had a lot of fun, and there was no pressure. We played with no pressure and the weekend was great overall. The guys are nice and the coaches are friendly. They give you the chance and all you have to do is take the opportunity and take advantage of it.”

Florida Christian’s Matt Fernandez led the way for the pitchers, striking out the side in his inning of work. John I. Leonard’s Jordan Diaz, Falcon Cove’s Jeremy Hernandez and SLAM’s Chris Velasquez all tossed perfect 1-2-3 innings.

The Gray team took the lead in the fourth. Belen Jesuit’s Gaby DeZendegui singled on a chopper past the shortstop, stole second and then advanced to third on a passed ball. Jordan Diaz followed with an RBI groundout that plated DeZendegui for the 1-0 lead.

They added some insurance runs with two apiece in the seventh and eighth innings. Chris Velasquez singled up the middle and scored on an RBI from Glades’ Derek Bermudez, and Moya reached on an error and scored in the seventh. American’s Christian Carratala added a two-RBI single that plated Southridge’s Brandon Cabrera and Falcon Cove’s Jeremy Hernandez.

The Maroon squad managed just four scattered hits by Belen Jesuit’s Joshua Salandy, IMG Academy’s Trip McKinley, Pompano Beach’s Josue Zuany and Calvary Christian’s Thomas White.

“This felt like I made it to the next level and I want to play here and continue to play here,” Salandy said. “I adjusted pretty quickly to the coaches; they were just there to aide us and get us ready to run on the bases. I got a lot of at bats and it was pretty good.”

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The HSBN All American Weekend concluded with games played at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field on the University of Miami campus all throughout the day on Sunday. Following two Futures contests early in the day, the All American players took their turns in two evening contests.

With four rosters of 25 players all close to high school graduation and college competition, the games served as a great opportunity at the college playing experience while performing in front of fans, scouts and Hurricane coaches.

Black Team 6, Red Team 4

The Black Team A jumped to a lead early on and held it the rest of the way. The victors meshed well in all phases to deliver a solid overall performance for the fans and Hurricanes coaching staff in attendance. The Red team bounced back from some early struggles and battled within one run of tying things up late before running out of swings, providing exciting action on both sides all throughout.

South Broward’s Yordan Maldonado set the tone with a scoreless first inning that included two strikeouts for the Black team, and the offense responded with its first swings. Southwest Miami’s Danny Cruz reached on an error and then scored off an RBI double into the right field corner from Columbus’ Albert Espinosa, who then also came in thanks to an RBI single to right from Douglas’ Jacob Stanley.

An inning late the Black club pushed it to a 5-0 advantage, as the first three batters all reached base and scored. Douglas’ Jonathan Strauss sent a high chopper up the middle for a leadoff single, Western’s Weylin Cleri reached on a fielder’s choice and South Dade’s Willy Escala loaded the bases with a single through the left side. For Escala it is the first of what could be many career hits at this field, as the senior is committed to play for the Hurricanes after he graduates this year.

Solid execution with runners on base led to the first run of the inning, as Archbishop Carroll’s Rey Gonce got a grounder to the right side for a 4-3 RBI that plated Strauss. Monsignor Pace’s Alec Sierra followed with an RBI single to center and a throwing error allowed Escala to also score.

Douglas’ left-hander Brandon Kaminer struck out four over two scoreless innings that kept Team A in control, before the Red team got on the scoreboard in the fourth. Florida Christian’s Danny Vazquez reached on a single deep to the shortstop, advanced on a throwing error and then stole third base to get within ninety feet of the plate. Royal Palm Beach’s Tarik Latchmansingh exemplified his clutch-hitting with a sharp liner through the left side of the defense for an RBI single.

The Red team made it interesting again by narrowing the gap in the seventh. Doral Academy’s Brian Perez reached on an infield single, Miami Brito’s Onelio Perdomo and Danny Vazquez both singled to left to load the bases. Mater Academy’s Luis Diaz delivered a dagger with a shot deep to right field for a bases-clearing, three-run double that brought it to a 5-4 ball game.

Jacob Stanley provided exactly the response that the Black squad needed by striking out the side on just nine pitches in eighth inning. Monsignor Pace’s Alec Sierra surrendered a single to Miami Country Day’s Austin Pollack in the ninth, but managed to work around the threat to strike out a pair and end the contest.

The Black team added one last run in the eighth. St. John Paul II’s PJ Cimo lined a shot just past the outfielder and showed off some nice base running awareness to race around the bags for a standup triple. A wild pitch then allowed Cimo to come in for the final run of the game.

The Red pitching staff delivered a gutsy performance, as three pitchers combined to split the time on the mound. Atlantic’s Maxwell Charnin struck out four in three innings, South Dade’s Jimmy Galvis struck out three in three scoreless innings and Onelio Perdomo recorded two strikeouts over two innings.

Gold Team 3, Navy Team 1

A two-run fourth inning combined with strong pitching performances led the Gold Team D to a 3-1 victory over the NAVY Team C in Sunday night’s finale.

With hits at a premium against a seemingly endless stream of talented arms, the Gold club scored a pair of unearned runs to add to its early lead with the deciding margin. Varela’s Andres Artola and Archbishop McCarthy’s AJ Hendricks both reached on errors to start the top of the fourth inning, with Artola crossing the plate as Hendricks cruised into second base on a throwing error. Two batters later, John I. Leonard’s Angel Diaz singled to left field to drive in Hendricks for a 3-0 lead.

The Gold squad grabbed the lead right away in the first inning. Doral Academy’s Erick Orbeta reached on an error and then came home thanks to an RBI double from Santaluces’ MJ Restivo that split the left-center field gap. Team D held the lead the rest of the way, even despite low offensive production that saw only one more hit on a bunt single from Orbeta in the fifth.

Palmetto’s Matthew Turner set the tone on the mound for the Gold, throwing two scoreless innings and striking out five batters while throwing 16 of 22 pitches for strikes. Tuner’s only base runner allowed came on an error leading off the second, and he managed to work around the threat to keep the Navy team off the scoreboard.

Team C ended the shutout in the fifth. Belen Jesuit’s Humberto Torres doubled into the left field corner and Westminster Christian’s Devin Roche drove him in with an RBI double to right field. That was as close as they got as Gulliver Prep’s Adrian Del Castillo single in the eighth was the Navy team’s only other base runner the rest of the way.

Cypress Bay’s Jake Walker helped keep the Gold staff sizzling hot by striking out the side in the fourth. John I. Leonard’s Angel Diaz, MJ Restivo and Somerset Charter Academy’s Edsel Vichot all tossed perfect 1-2-3 innings, Monsignor Pace’s Brandon Cruz added a scoreless frame and Archbishop McCarthy’s Adam Tulloch and West Boca’s Alex Cordero both had two strikeouts in their respective inning of work.

The Navy team also received outstanding pitching that was hurt by three unearned runs. Six different hurlers threw perfect frames, including iMater’s James Montoya, Suncoast’s Tyler Lavery, Lakewood Ranch’s Devin Wall, Mater Academy’s Joe Soto, Fort Lauderdale’s Argelio Morejon and South Dade’s Ricardo Sobalvarro. The staff recorded 13 consecutive outs to end the game and give the offense a chance to respond, starting from Nova’s Trace Moore recording a strikeout to end the fifth and culminating with Sobalvarro punching out the final batter in the top of the ninth.

2016 HSBN POWER SHOWCASE champion Albert Hernandez with POWER SHOWCASE president Brian Domenico.

Dinner & Derby Gallery

Archbishop McCarthy freshman Albert Hernandez entered the championship round of Friday’s home run derby knowing exactly what he needed to do in order to claim the title. With just two outs remaining the young slugger connected on a long shot to left field that sailed over the fence at Paul Demie Mainieri Field at St. Thomas University, and just like that Hernandez accomplished his goal.

Hernandez narrowly edged West Boca junior Alex Cordero 3-2 to win the crown in Friday night’s HSBN POWER SHOWCASE derby, which kicked off the All-American weekend festivities that will continue Saturday at St. Thomas before moving to Alex Rodriguez Park at the University of Miami on Sunday. Hernandez also earned four of the five awards for his performance, adding the awards for the most consecutive, most preliminary round and most overall home runs.

Hernandez also earned himself a complimentary invitation to the eleventh annual International POWER SHOWCASE, which will be held at Miami Marlins Park December 27-30th.

“Coming out and winning this here with the crowd we had tonight was a great feeling,” Hernandez said. “It was relieving to hit that because I was kind of nervous at first because I was already at eight outs with only two home runs and I thought I wouldn’t get the third one up there. But I pulled through and got the third one out and it happened. It was nerve-wracking because almost everybody in it is older than me and there are only a few other guys in my grade here.”

Royal Palm Beach senior Tarik Latchmansingh earned the other award for the longest home run, a blast that traveled 400 feet and helped him advance to the championship round with three first-round longballs. Alex Cordero had four in the opening round and six overall, and Columbus’ Albert Espinosa, Westminster Christian’s Luis Aviles and Monsignor Pace’s Brandon Cruz all also advanced to the final round with three homers each.

Hernandez was one of the final hitters to take his turn in the preliminary round, where he then put on a show with five “no-doubter” drives to move himself to the top of the leaderboard heading into the finals.

“I was anxious to get into that batter’s box, but it was fun watching everyone else hit and get their hacks in too and see how far they hit the ball,” Hernandez said. “It was a fun show to watch, not just saying so about myself. In all it was a great experience to be a part of and hopefully those swings carry on going into the combine and the games tomorrow. I just hope for the best tomorrow and I wish everybody luck.”

The event was the perfect experience to start off the weekend. POWER SHOWCASE President Brian Domenico worked the two-wheeled jugs pitching machine in an open-bat format all night, while volunteer catchers Jonathan Roach and Juaquin Monque split time behind the plate and numerous volunteers shagged fly balls for each of the 22 participants. After arriving for a complimentary dinner followed by team meetings and jersey presentations, participants and their families were treated to the derby that capped off the evening.

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Lafayette manager Tim Hanson could not believe the incredible journey his team had just completed. Making its second appearance in the state tournament in the past three seasons, the Hornets accomplished the ultimate goal by winning the championship. Behind a complete-game shutout from starter Zach Yeager Lafayette won 2-0 over Chiefland in the Class 1A state championship Thursday night at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers.

Two years ago the club was blanked in a mercy-rule defeat to be sent home in the semifinal, and that same group had fallen just short in returning last season. This year featured a different group, and although the expectations were not placed on them to do so, they found their groove and boogied all the way to a celebration dance holding the state trophy.

“We always look to the state tournament, certainly, but I did not see this coming,” Hanson said. “To watch the kids at the end of the game is priceless. You’ll never be able to replace that. The community really traveled down too. It’s about a five hour drive to come here but the people decided to come out and watch.”

With only five seniors and just as many underclassmen on the squad, Lafayette (23-6) lacked the experience of the previous few squads. But that did not stop this group from working together to reach their goal.

“We started off pretty good and got into district play, where Madison moved down into our district and they beat us 16-1 in two games,” Hanson said. “We ended up coming back and beating them in the district tournament. It was the same rotation: Micah Byrd got us to the championship game and Zach won it. Then we went first round with Micah in the regionals and Zach finished it up, first round in states with Micah and Zach finished it up. We stayed with it and it worked. But it’s been a journey, no doubt.”

A night after winning big over Central to advance to the state championship for the second time in program history, it was Yeager’s turn to finish the job and complete the dream. The right-hander proved up to the task by working efficiently to stymie the Indians’ lineup. Yeager scattered three hits and four walks and struck out a pair, including a strikeout against the final batter that ended the night and triggered the celebration.

Lafeyette's Zach Yeager threw a complete-game shutout.

Following a Gatorade shower compliments of his excited players, Hanson could not help but grin and enjoy the moment his guys had earned for themselves.

“The kids are great,” Hanson said. “They work their butts off and they are great kids too. I know the community is very proud of them. Not only do they come to practice every day and work but they are super kids. I love being around them. Win or lose tonight I was going to be just as proud.”

Those fans that made the journey were rewarded with an early lead that helped fuel the excitement. In the bottom of the second inning Calb Land reached on an infield single, Bryson Bracewell dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move him to second and Coley Hingson pushed Land to third after getting the ball on the ground to the right side for a 4-3 groundout. Kayne Hurst then delivered a single up the middle to send Land the final 90 feet home for a 1-0 lead.

Backed with a lead, Yeager excelled at getting fly balls that were easily handled by his defense. Chiefland (24-5) had 14 flyouts and struggled to get any offense going.

The Hornets added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth. Byrd walked and was replaced by pinch-runner Kerby Hanson. Kerby stole second base and then raced around and scored thanks to an RBI single up the middle from Mason Herring.

The Lions dogpile to celebrate their 2015 state championship.

Oviedo made school history by winning the Class 7A state championship on Thursday evening. The Lions dispatched Sarasota 9-5 to earn their place in history, setting off a raucous celebration on the field at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers. It was Oviedo’s first time in the state championship, after falling in the semifinal round in four previous appearances dating back to its first trip to states in 1986.

The Lions (27-5) broke things open with two outs in the top of the first inning. Ty Powell and Ryan Anderson were both hit by pitches, and catcher JJ Woodard delivered a double to center field to push both players home and get the scoring started. Corey Shearer came in to run for Woodard, and he quickly advanced into scoring position thanks to a single from Christian Arroyo. Austin Parker followed with an RBI single to drive home Shearer, and Shane Miller added an RBI single to plate Arroyo and give Oviedo a 4-0 advantage.

Oviedo increased its lead in the top of the fifth. Woodard singled to left field, and Arroyo jumped on a 2-0 offering and crushed it over the Green Monster for a two-run home run and a 6-1 lead.

The club continued to pound away to put things out of reach with three more runs in the sixth. Shane Miller singled to begin the inning, and then moved to second on the strength of a sacrifice bunt from Cameron Peppiatt. Deacon Liput put runners on the corners with a ground-ball single to right field, and Ty Powell singled to left to drive in Miller. Carlos Cortes sent a fly ball to center for a sac-fly that pushed Liput across the plate, and an Anderson single allowed Powell to come in and push the lead to 9-1.

Sarasota (20-11) got on the scoreboard with a run in the bottom of the second. Nick Long worked a leadoff walk, Carson Kyser followed suit and then gave way to courtesy-runner Kyle McMullen. Adam Imwalle loaded the bases on a single to center, and Matt Schlabach deposited an RBI single on a liner to left that drove in Long for the Sailors’ first run of the contest.

Cameron Peppiatt picked up the win with five gritty innings on the mound.

True to the grit the team has shown all throughout its playoff run this year, Sarasota continued to battle back even after falling into a very deep hole. Imwalle and Schlabach both singled to start the bottom of the sixth, with Imwalle then coming home on an RBI groundout from Aidan Wolfe. Frey came through with an RBI single that plated Schlabach and kept the pressure going, and Cody Brickhouse increased that pressure when he lined a double just fair along the left field line for a double that pushed Frey across the plate.

Arroyo came up with another big play for his team that ended the threat, as he tracked down a pop fly in front of the first base dugout to make the catch even despite colliding with Woodard in the process.

Peppiatt picked up the win on the mound for Oviedo, working through five innings while scattering six hits and four walks and picking up three strikeouts. Although the Sailors threatened to get back into the game several times, Peppiatt was able to work out of trouble and hand a big lead off to reliever Nick Logan.

Logan also faced some adversity as the tenacious Sailors continued to battle to the very end. Down to its final out in the bottom of the seventh, Schlabach continued to give Sarasota hope by connecting for a double to deep to left field. Arauz came through with an RBI single to right field that allowed Schlabach to score, but Logan induced a fly ball to Cortez in center field for the final out that sealed the victory.

The Conquerors' Josh Broughton scores during a four-fun first inning that paved the way to the championship victory.

Championship Gallery

The Trinity Christian Conquerors showed from the very start that they were in it to win it. Behind a hot start and a strong pitching performance from Ryan Aspinwall, Trinity Christian edged Bishop Verot to claim the Class 4A state title early Wednesday morning at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers. Due to weather delays, the contest began three hours past its original start time at 10:30 Tuesday night, leading to a celebration that did not come until one o’clock in the morning.

It is the first state championship in program history. The Conquerors (23-8) were playing in their second championship, having also reached the title game in 2000.

Bishop Verot had battled back with a run in the seventh when Trevor Cramer doubled and scored on an RBI single from Richie Nizza. With the tying run at the plate, reliever Rollin Layton induced an infield grounder for the final out that sealed the victory.

Trinity Christian went right to work with four runs in the top of the first inning. John Flowers led off the game with a single to center, and Austin Martin moved him into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Flowers then came home to start the scoring when Logan Nugent reached on an infield error. Andrew Williamson drew a walk and the Conquerors plated another unearned run on an error following a single from John Broughton.

With the pressure on Bishop Verot (25-7) and starter Thaddeus Ward, Williamson increased the dial by swiping third base. Rollin Layton dropped down a sacrifice bunt that drove Williamson home, and he ducked under the tag along the first base line to keep things going. Cody Crawford followed with a single to left field that plated Broughton and gave Trinity Christian a 4-0 advantage.

Staked to a lead, Aspinwall kept the momentum on his side of the field with a 1-2-3 bottom of the first. The right-hander attacked the Vikings without fear, challenging batters and trusting the defense behind him. The senior worked into the seventh inning, allowing one earned run while scattering five hits and two walks. He recorded three strikeouts on 95 total pitches, before giving way to Layton in the final inning.

The Conquerors increased their lead in the top of the sixth. Crawford drew a leadoff walk, Brooks Wilson singled and Austin Martin was intentionally walked to load the bases. Nugent drove a liner past first base and into the right field corner, driving in two runners with a double.

The Vikings finally got on the scoreboard to cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the sixth. CJ Alexander reached on an error, Richie Nizza drew a walk and Michael Richey reached on a fielder’s choice that loaded the bases. Courtesy-runner Dalton Lagrave came in to run for Richey, while Anthony Tejeda stepped to the plate. The designated hitter delivered to end the shutout with an RBI single that pushed CJ Alexander home.

With the momentum now on their side, the Vikings kept attacking. Cory Castellano reached on a fielder’s choice that erased Nizza at third and brought Blaze Alexander to the plate. The third baseman delivered Bishop Verot’s biggest hit of the night with a liner to center field that scored two runs to pull within 6-3.

While the Conquerors bent late, they never lost the lead. The fire that started in the first inning continued to burn throughout the night and into the next morning. When the smoke finally cleared, Trinity Christian emerged with its first championship trophy and memories that will last forever.

For the fourth time in less than a decade, the Venice Indians are state champions. Behind a big fourth inning and a great pitching performance from starter Caleb Williams and relievers Colin Cristello and Kade Hunkapiller, Venice stormed to a 5-0 victory over Bartram Trail to claim the Class 6A state title on Saturday night.

The Indians earned their first state crown in Class 5A, to go along with a 6A title in 2007 and back-to-back 7A championships in 2012 and 2013. Since the FHSAA only expanded to add the 8A and 7A classifications in 2012, Venice now has the distinction of being the only school in the state to hold titles in these three classifications.

“I don’t think any one is better than the other; they are all great teams and they are all great kids,” Venice Manager Craig Faulkner said. “I’m excited for this team because no one expected them to do this well, but they just kept doing it time after time as they kept stepping up to the plate. So it was awesome.”

Following the victory, the team lined up along the third base line for the medal and trophy presentation. Faulkner took that opportunity to work his way down the line, hugging each player one by one and sharing a few personal words for each member of the tribe. It was a moment that meant a lot to the skipper and his team, and one that really helped to bring the euphoria into focus.

“When you get to win like this everyone is happy, and as a coach you are so proud of all of them,” Faulkner said. “You can’t play all of them the same amount of time but you are so proud that they all stuck in and they all did the work that you asked them to do. It is just a special moment between coaches and players when you get to thank them for what they’ve done.”

Making his first start of the season on the grand stage of jetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Williams showed the poise and ability of any seasoned veteran to earn the win with five scoreless innings. The sophomore spent a lot of the year pitching for the junior varsity team, but all along the coaches knew they would be counting on him down the stretch in big playoff games.

“Caleb did a great job when he came up and he has ice water running through his veins,” Faulkner said. “He’s going to be a great pitcher here at Venice High School. He’s got three pitches that he throws for strikes and he is an extremely smart young man. He’s a good student, a good player and just a good citizen who does everything that we ask of him. That’s why he got the nod is because we knew he would come through for us.”

Williams scattered three hits and two walks, while picking up three strikeouts. He was ably backed by a ferocious defense that made numerous diving catches to rob base hits and keep runners off the bases.

Venice Manager Craig Faulkner took a moment to personally thank every member of the team following their title victory.

Across the diamond, Bears starter Joseph Hoelle kept pace with Williams early on. Hoelle attacked the Venice batting order fearlessly, challenging hitters while showcasing his best stuff.

The Indians (29-3) got the offense going with a three-run fourth inning that chased Hoelle from the contest. Scott Dubrule singled and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Jake Grubbs. Shane Shifflett followed with a single to right field to put runners on the corners, and Cristello dropped down a great bunt on a safety-squeeze play to drive Dubrule in for the first run of the night. Brent Killam kept things going with a liner into the left field corner for an RBI double that plated Shifflett, and Trevor Holloway added an RBI single that scored Killam for a 3-0 advantage.

The Indians added two more insurance runs to pull away. Cristello drove in Dubrule with a sacrifice flyout in the fifth, and Dubrule added an RBI single to score Holloway in the sixth.

Coming off an epic battle with defending state champion Mater Academy in Friday’s 6A semifinal, Venice showed no signs of fatigue in playing for the title. The Indians showed up with focus and determination, which Faulkner admitted has been their mantra all season long.

“Every game they played this year they came to win,” Faulkner said. “This team was an unusual team that didn’t need a lot of motivation. They came ready to play. We tried to give them a lot of motivation, and they took to it. But they came to play every game and they are just an unusual bunch. They pulled for each other and just had a great team chemistry. They just did all the little things that we asked them to do and they are a very impressive group.”

The Bears (24-7) had also survived an 11-inning battle over Forest in the 6A semifinals to advance to the state championship for the first time in program history. Bartram Trail threatened in several innings, but was unable to break through against the feisty Venice defense. Mike Cassala led the Bears by going 2-for-3 to account for half the team’s hits.

The Red Devils' seniors celebrate their second straight Class 1A state championship, following Thursday's 3-0 win over Blountstown.

Thursday was a historic day for the Williston Red Devils.

The team celebrated its second straight state title following a 3-0 victory over Blountstown in the Class 1A state championship, played at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers. After also winning 4-0 over Chipley in last year’s state final, Williston becomes the first school in Florida history to win consecutive state titles by way of a shutout in the championship game.

It is the third state championship in program history, as the team also won a state crown way back in 1923. In three championship game victories Williston has yet to allow a run, winning all three contests by way of a shutout. The Red Devils’ 1923 championship came following a 5-0 victory over Summerlin Institute, and it came a year after the school lost 9-0 to Summerlin Institute in Florida’s very first high school baseball state championship.

On Thursday, left-hander Austin Langworthy closed out a dominate junior year by going the distance for the complete-game shutout. The southpaw pounded the strike zone with 55 of his 76 pitches, limiting Blountstown (22-9) to two hits and a hit batsman. Langworthy struck out seven to up his season total to 84 strikeouts overall, and he faced just three batters over the minimum.

Across the mound, Tigers starter Derek Eberly also proved to be tough to hit against. The junior right-hander matched Langworthy pitch for pitch early on, keeping things scoreless into the bottom of the fourth. Eberly took the loss following five full innings of work, allowing six hits and a walk while picking up three strikeouts.

University of Florida commit Austin Langworthy tossed a complete-game shutout to earn the championship-game victory.

Williston (27-2) struck for all the runs it would need in the fourth. Langworthy got things going by drawing a leadoff walk, and he advanced to second base thanks to a sacrifice bunt from Britton Hall. Cameron Coffey followed with a single, and Langworthy came around to score on a throwing error that allowed Coffey to move to second base. Haydn Cano added an insurance run with an RBI double that pushed Coffey home.

An inning later the Red Devils added another insurance run. Ryan Battle led off with a single, and Langworthy moved him along with another base hit. Coffey then delivered an RBI single to increase the lead to 3-0, after Battle scored on the play.

Since dropping down from Class 4A to Class 1A before the start of the 2014 season, Williston has dominated amongst its peers. The team has gone a perfect 31-0 against fellow Class 1A opponents, and ends this season on a 20-game winning streak.

Former Southridge and current Cleveland Indians star Yan Gomes concludes his Sunday Morning Chat with HSBN’s Rick Duteau…

Rick: You obviously play the most demanding position on a baseball field, what can you tell young catchers coming up is the most important thing they should be focused on as a catcher?

Yan Gomes: When you are young they focus on staying healthy. I guess if you want to play you have to stay healthy and take care of your body. But on the field as a catcher you know people don’t understand, like you said it is a very demanding role, but we need to understand that hitting isn’t always going to come for us. It’s not very easy, and you know it’s tough to juggle two things, and I know Terry has really stuck in my head that I need to worry about our pitching. So my main goal every day is just to worry about our defense; hitting is going to come. I know people really care about guys who can hit and once you’re a catcher you really need to focus on your pitching staffs and really worry about what you are doing behind the plate where you can control the pitcher.

Rick: Like many players down here in Miami, you grew up learning the sport in another country. You were taught the game from a Cuban friend of your father. Tell us about learning the game of baseball while many of your friends were likely focused on soccer.

Yan Gomes: That is true; we actually warmed up playing soccer, so there was still soccer going on there then. I mean Cuba is one of the main places for baseball, people know that. The biggest thing in learning baseball in Brazil from a Cuban coach is the discipline of baseball. That is what I think is really huge in Brazil is the discipline that they have. It is almost like a Cuban-style baseball with the coach that we had, but it was also a Japanese-style baseball. The Japanese population in Brazil is really big and that is mostly what our baseball teams consisted of, Japanese-Brazilian players. Like I say, it’s the discipline that we have of staying focused on our tasks. It’s a big focus factor in Brazil.

Rick: So you didn’t have too hard of a time getting baseball games in there with the Japanese population there now. Because I am picturing you as a kid with a baseball saying, ‘I don’t have anyone to play baseball with; everyone is playing soccer’.

Yan Gomes: Well I will tell you what, in school some of the friends that I had, they had no idea what I was doing. You know it’s funny, I still remember when I was a kid I would sit there and do some dry swings and mimic throwing and they had absolutely no idea what I was doing. But it was the culture of the community and I still love it to this day. I mean it was tough going around with our friends and them having no idea what I am doing.

Rick: Something tells me they know now.

Yan Gomes: They do, they do. Baseball has grown in Brazil, I can tell you that.

Rick: Last year you were a major player in helping the Brazilian national team qualify for the World Baseball Classic. Then after qualifying you chose to stay off the World Classic roster to concentrate on your Indians career. How hard was it to make that decision, and what factors went into making such a tough choice?

Yan Gomes: It was tough because it was hard to tell the guys. I focused on explaining it to the main players of the team because I think they would send the message to the rest of the team. So I focused on telling Rienzo, Paulo Orlando, who is one of the older guys, and Barry Larkin, who was our Manager. There was a time when I had just gotten traded to the Indians and I needed to make an impact there. I needed to focus and establish myself in the big leagues. I mean, I had just made it to the big leagues so I wasn’t an established player yet, and I needed to make an impact. I felt I would have made a bigger impact if I had made an impact in my career first. I would have maybe had a bigger platform, I would have had a bigger say in things, and what really helped is that they understood. They understood that what I was doing with the Indians, it was mainly on my career what I could do. It was tough, I mean I still talk to my wife about it. When I was watching those games from spring training, and they are on at 4 o’clock in the morning, and I was up watching it and I was like, ‘Man, I wish I was there so bad’.

Rick: It is hard to want to be at two places at once, right?

Yan Gomes: Yes. But, you know, obviously the early part of my career right now has turned out well. It was a good decision. But that was one thing I didn’t want to have stuck in my mind that if something didn’t work out with the Indians I didn’t want to blame the WBC. I felt like I made the right decision and it was nice that a lot of people supported me.

Rick: Especially playing the position you are, the pitchers and catchers arrive earlier and there is so much more work in spring training for that. I am sure that position that you play made it even more of a necessity that this is the right decision to go to Cleveland instead.

Yan Gomes: Yeah, and there was a time when I was told that I was only going to play catcher. You know I came out with Toronto as the super utility guy.

Rick: Yeah, you kind of played everywhere with them.

Yan Gomes: I played everywhere and the Indians told me that I would just play catcher, so I needed to figure a way to just focus on that.

Rick: It worked out pretty well; you had a great year for Cleveland. You won a Silver Slugger Award. Does that validate the decision that you made?

Yan Gomes: Um, sure. I mean, in a way all is coming together because I guess now I can praise that decision that it was good that I decided to stay. But I think it is the support man, I really felt the support that everyone showed with the decision. I mean, I still keep in touch with guys and I was staying in Brazil and they don’t even talk about that anymore. You know they don’t talk about the fact that I didn’t go, because I was able to establish myself in the big leagues. I think they understood that and you know I credit them. I mean the Silver Slug award is…. I guess it is a way of thanking them for supporting me. I worked hard to get to where I am and it was a nice little way to show them I appreciate their support.

Rick: It almost makes it a little more of a reward when you do things like that, because it’s like you are doing it for the entire nation of Brazil.

Yan Gomes: Yeah, and that’s the thing that I hoped my younger brother would realize is that we are both from Brazil, we were born there and he would realize it later that we are not just playing for ourselves, we are playing for something bigger. You know, God has such an amazing plan for us and I think that mine is to show that Brazil is here. We are here to grow as a nation and it is amazing to see the support that they have for me. It really is. I get messages every day how much I mean to them. They see me on TV and they don’t really know the person that I am. I try my best to do that, I try my best to show it to them who I am, so it’s nice.

Rick: Speaking of your brother Juan, it is pretty awesome to have a brother following your path toward the major leagues. I hear he is in the same organization as you. What is that like?

Yan Gomes: Yeah, I will tell you what man, last year when he got drafted, I remember exactly where we were playing. I want to say it was a midday game in Texas and I am walking in to our clubhouse and the first thing I go to check my phone to see if my wife or anybody had texted me, and I look and there is a Sportscenter update that says Juan Gomes drafted by the Cleveland Indians, brother of Yan Gomes. I am getting chills right now; it was a really emotional day for all of us. I know how hard he has worked and he has also had a tough go, and he blames himself a lot for it. He knows he didn’t give himself the best chance, but I think he has got a really great opportunity coming now and he is taking full advantage of it. I mean, it’s exciting. It’s exciting and not many brothers get to say that, and I hope he makes it to the big leagues and we can be the first Brazilian brothers on the same team.

Brothers and fellow Cleveland Indians teammates Juan and Yan Gomes.

Rick: Yeah, splitting time behind the dish I guess.

Yan Gomes: Yeah, I guess so.

Rick: How good do you think the Indians are going to be this year?

Yan Gomes: I think we are going to win the World Series. I think we were at that point that we needed to make some moves and we did and it’s exciting. I think everybody is hungry. A lot of our guys have been talking to each other and everybody that I talk to are like hey I have been working hard man we are ready to go, I think there is that. Last year we had in a way some hiccups through the middle of the year but we were still right there in the midst of the playoffs towards the end. And I feel like if we realize that some games got away from us that we needed to have and I think they are starting to understand that we have a bunch of core guys coming together and it’s exciting and I mean I can feel it already the fire that we are growing and I mean you should hear Tito. He calls me sometimes and to hear him talk about how excited he is it gets me excited.

Rick: As an outside baseball fan just watching, you know you can almost get that sense that you guys are one of those teams ready to pop and that has the potential, like you said, to win the World Series.

Yan Gomes: We are one of those teams that, I guess the Seahawks kind of had it a couple years ago where we are like, ‘why not us?’. We all think we have all the talent, I think we have a lot of young core guys coming together, and I think we have a good chance.

Rick: You watched several South Florida players like Eric Hosmer and Mike Morse star in the playoffs last year. In recent years players of South Florida roots have really stormed onto the national scene. What is it like to be one of the players that is currently bringing South Florida into the forefront of major league baseball on a national level?

Yan Gomes: It’s pretty great. It just shows the kind of talent we have down here. I think to a lot of parts of the country it is a little unfair because we do get to play baseball all year round. You go up north, like right now where I am in Tennessee, if you are going to play baseball outside you better bring a couple jackets. But it shows the talent, it shows the kind of style of baseball that we have here. I would say in a way Eric Hosmer and Mike Morse are kind of similar players. Hosmer is younger and he plays unbelievable defense and Mike Morse is, he is a scary guy, and so is Hosmer. It just shows. Many more, you know like Machado and Martinez and I probably shouldn’t having started naming players because now I am going to forget somebody. But there is a lot of talent down here and I mean it shows, it really does show. You see the high school talent down here. I think people know.

Rick: In closing, tell our young players reading this interview what it takes to prepare mentally and physically for playing baseball for a living.

Yan Gomes: Just understand that you are playing a game. Understand that it is the same game you played when you were a young kid. Have fun. It gets tougher because the stakes get higher, there is more money involved, and there are more people watching. You can tell the guys that are successful there, the guys that can take it. They have fun with the game. It is 162 games that we play in the big leagues and, you know, just enjoy it. When you were a kid you weren’t mad every time you got out you were just having fun while you were there. For me it is such a blessing to be playing the game that I love. God has blessed me in so many ways. You know, I thank him every day for that. He has put this opportunity that we have here and I think for us, especially the South Florida guys, we understand the responsibility that we have. God has put us there for a reason and to show other kids that the game is fun. Just enjoy it; don’t take it too seriously.

Rick: Well, I also thank you for taking the time. This has been a fantastic interview and I also wish you the greatest amount of success this year. Now go win the World Series with Tito.

Yan Gomes: Thank you. I appreciate it.

Sunday morning chat is back in 2015, and HSBN has a treat in week one! Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes is quickly becoming one of the hottest rising stars in the game. Before he was a Major League star, Gomes played his high school ball locally first at Miami Palmetto and then at Miami Southridge.

With pitchers and catchers close to reporting for Spring Training, Yan spent some time with HSBN senior writer Rick Duteau to talk about life in the big leagues, playing for “Tito” Francona, and his high school days. Today we bring you Part I of this Sunday Morning Chat. Enjoy!

Rick: We are going to get started. Yan, tell us a little bit about your experience on here playing at Miami Southridge.

Yan Gomes: Well before Southridge, going to South Ridge started, I played my first year at Palmetto. My freshman year was at Palmetto High School. I played there and, in a way I felt like many families were moving so I needed to go to a different school and Southridge just happened to be a huge blessing to me. You know, I go there and the baseball program was really going well and I just fell in right there. Fred Burnside and Eddie Doscow really helped me out and all the coaching staff, so it was great. It was a fun time, though. We had a really good team, a lot of talent playing there so it was a big time in my career, the path to my career.

Rick: Do you keep in touch with either of those coaches?

Yan Gomes: I do try to keep in touch as much as I can with some of the players but it’s kind of tough, we all have different schedules and busy lifestyles. I do keep in touch with Doscow. I have lost touch with Burnside. You know, he’s a South Dade guy now, so…

Rick: You took a very interesting path to the major leagues, one we feel players down here need to know about: your signing at the University of Tennessee. You got drafted in the 39th round by the Red Sox, turned the offer down and attended Barry University. Did you realize the risk you were taking at that time, to leave a top D1 program, turning down a major league team in order to come to play at Barry?

Yan Gomes: Um, I did. I did and you know things at Tennessee in a way weren’t working out. I felt like I had a better opportunity if I went somewhere else. I mean, no hard feelings with Tennessee, I still love it there. I live there. But, I knew I had to make a change, I knew I had to decide something and Barry came to me. Me and a buddy of mine, Danny Lima, who played at Florida Christian, he ended up deciding to go to Barry and I knew I had to make a big impact because, nothing against the Division II schools, but I knew going from a Division I to a Division II, maybe people thought that I couldn’t cut it in Division I. So I tried to go down, but it was a hard task to fill. You know we had to set a limit at home, so that was nice, but I had to really show that I could play. I ended up having a really good year and I thank the coaches there so much, like every day. It ended up working out. I think that is God’s way of showing that you just stick to His plan and not try to take control of it and it’s going to go well.

Rick: After having the big success at Barry, you again were drafted, this time in the 10th round by Toronto. What was that feeling like knowing that again you had a chance to chase your dream?

Yan Gomes: In playing terms, it is a dream come true. You know, I got drafted in the 39th round the year before but, it was a sign that I wasn’t ready. You know, God was telling me that I wasn’t ready to do it. I wasn’t mature enough, obviously because I had that tendency. But, I think, the time that I had at Barry, I really grew, and once I got drafted, in my mind I knew that I was ready. And, it was such an unbelievable opportunity and I know that if we talked to my parents about it right now that they will still cry about it the day that I was drafted. It was just exciting, really excitement. I was so ready to get out there and get everything going, and then that path that I took, and I knew it wasn’t easy, but it helped me.

Rick: Tell us what you would tell high school players today, many of whom will go through the same roller coaster ride along the way that you have experienced.

Yan Gomes: Stick to your goals, man. Get yourself the mindset that you never want to settle at one place. Even though I was transferring from Tennessee to Barry, I wasn’t just happy to be there. My ultimate goal was to be successful, whatever I was doing, and that’s the same thing throughout the minor leagues. You know, I always had the biggest thing in my mind was that I always feel like there was someone working harder than me and in my mind, it doesn’t settle well. I try to get everything that I can, every day and go to sleep knowing that I worked hard that day.

Rick: Coaches love all that.

Yan Gomes: I mean, it was engraved in my mind, probably from the way my parents raised me. It was, back to the kids, it was more the focus part. There’s a lot of distractions when you get to money and you want to enjoy that lifestyle but, you know, all that lifestyle you live at now, it’s going to be so much more fun when you are in the Major Leagues. I can vouch for that because you get a lot of better places, but it’s a big thing, going through the transitions through the minor leagues. A lot of distractions come around and, I think once you set your goal on making it to the Major Leagues, and not just settling in one place, I think, to me, in my mind, is good advice.

Rick: Not many people know this but, you are the first Brazilian born player ever in the major leagues. How much pride do you take in that, and how much does that mean to Brazil?

Yan Gomes: Honestly, at first, I had no idea. I had no idea what was going on and it wasn’t even in my mind that I had made it, because it was still going through my mind that way once I got to AAA. There was talk about it and it came up a little more, and I got called up and still to this day that is one moment that gives me chills to even think about it. You know, I get to Toronto and it just happens to be another country, too, that I get to get to play for. There was somebody holding a sign saying, “Welcome Gomes” with the Brazilian flag and it definitely hit me. It hit me that for such a huge country, even known for their athletics in soccer and all these other sports, I was the first one at probably the main sport in our country, compared to football and basketball, it was amazing and getting the calls coming in from family members and papers out in Brazil. It took me a while to realize what I had done. Again, it is a way of God showing that the blessings He has put in my life and what I do with Him now is what matters. I have a huge platform to show that Brazil is on the map and it is a humbling experience and I’m ready to kind of show that. And I thank everybody every day for it.

Rick: In July 2013 you had to face Andre Reinzo, the first ever Brazilian born pitcher in the majors. What was that experience like?

Yan Gomes: It’s funny, because I was actually just talking a couple of days ago with my buddies about it. And another guy that plays for a different team was saying that he watched that game. I was like, ‘What are you doing watching my game?’ He said that they were flying and they heard it was a big deal and it was happening. I mean, again, to have two players from the same country facing each other for the first time, I guess here obviously it doesn’t really mean that much because there are so many Americans playing, but for Brazil to have now two guys and how fast that happened. It’s amazing, you know, one year there’s one guy and the next year, there’s two guys. It’s growing and it’s funny because I still remember that day and I still talk to Reinzo about it. We both kind of stepped up and gave a little bit of a head nod and were like, ‘Alright, man, game on; we are playing against each other now’. I ended up getting a big hit the first at bat and it was such a little dribbler up the middle, but to the both of us, it was a historic moment for our country.

Rick: You have a bunch of relationships here in Miami, one being with Gabe here at South Florida Rehab and training center. Gabe, his staff, and his wife Yolanda have become heavily involved with High School Baseball Network and developing players down here in Miami. Tell me a little bit about that relationship.

Yan Gomes: I don’t think Gabe even knows how thankful I am for being introduced to him. It was in 2005, I ended up having, for a young kid, a heartbreaking injury, like the famous Tommy Johns surgery. I ended up blowing out my arm going into my senior year of high school and, man, that was tough. I was crying every day because I was in the midst of signing with Tennessee and I didn’t if my career was done. I had never been injured before and I was introduced to Gabe and it was almost like, I felt different. He took such control of my injury, he took control of my surgery and I was back to the same in 8-9 months, and that usually isn’t normal. I was playing that next summer after my surgery, and that wasn’t normal. It normally takes a full year or even more than that. I am so thankful for what they did for me. Still to this day we try and talk as much as we can and we are still good to go. For what they are doing for kids out here, it just shows what is in their heart and they really care about the sports down here in Miami. I am so thankful; I mean he has helped so much with my family. My parents are in sports; he has done so much for them. It just shows what is in their hearts and how much they care about the sport. That’s great. They need people like that out here.

Yan with dear friend Gabe Carvajal, founder of HSBN's Miami-Dade sponsor South Florida Rehab, and Gomes' younger brother Juan.

Rick: It seems like you telling me about the experience with them, that he helped you a lot with the mental end of it as much as the physical end of it, which a lot of times in rehab that gets overlooked. What was that part of it like, having a guy that set your mind at ease more than helping your body come back together?

Yan Gomes: I was a young kid that didn’t know what the heck was going on with my body. My arm, I could barely pick up my arm and couldn’t squeeze my hand. And to him it was normal, the kind of thing that happens. But, I was panicking and he was able to take full control of my rehab. I still remember to this day, we were in a different location, and I remember I was getting unbelievable workouts. I was doing everything I could to get my body stronger. I ended up having a better year that next year. I mean we worked so hard at it, and my arm came back really healthy. It was a comfort level. To this day, I don’t take that rehab assignment for granted. From what I learned then, I can teach or help other guys now with that experience I had with Gabe, you know guys that go through that kind of injury, because a lot of guys do end up going through an injury like that. I end up telling them don’t focus so much on your elbow, work on your shoulder, and I learned a lot from that time and I still use it.

Rick: One of the interesting aspects of your career so far is that your manager, Terry Francona, was part of the team that drafted you your first time. At the time you turned him down but here you are playing for Francona several years later. Have you guys talked about that? What’s it like playing for Terry?

Yan Gomes: That’s funny! I didn’t even think about that.

Rick: Yeah, he was with the Red Sox when they drafted you that first time.

Yan Gomes: I hadn’t even thought about that. I mean, I was a 39th rounder that year, I don’t think my odds of making it to the majors was very realistic at the time, so we don’t even really remember that. Playing for Terry is pretty amazing. A lot of people know about him, a lot of people hear about him, the kind of guy that he is, what he’s done, it seems. And, yeah, I have heard all of that. He’s the players coach, and this and that, but once you get to play for him, it is that and much more. You get to see his personality every day and you get to see why he’s the player’s coach, like everybody says. It makes it so much fun to play for him and I think that’s really important for a team trying to build and trying to make the playoffs run or an organization trying to change their culture. I think that our GM, Chris Antonetti, making that move to hire him, it was a big deal. It showed that we were ready to change and showed the kind of guy Terry is. And it makes it so much fun that you make it personal to win for that guy. In my mind, that’s the way I see it. I make it really personal to win for him because he cares so much about us, and we care about him…

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