Saturday, June 17, 2017
Lynn Ramsey - Florida Catholic
MIAMI | Three years ago, a statewide reporter predicted Archbishop Coleman Carroll’s baseball success for this year.
“He asked me three years ago what we expected,” said coach Andres Blanco. “I told him that we were really young, but we will compete. He said three years ago that we’d build the program into something big. We made it to the state tournament.”
Blanco credited his seven seniors for providing strong leadership for the Bulldogs. “These guys have been together, especially the seniors for four years,” he said. “Three of them have been together since middle school at Our Lady of Lourdes.”
He also said that the juniors and sophomores grew into their roles.
They proved they could win close games (one-run victories vs. Bishop Verot, Mourning, Pembroke Pines Charter, Highlands Charter). They also could overpower teams, beating Dade Christian 17-2 in the district semifinals.
Losses to LaSalle and Gulliver Prep gave the Bulldogs a sense that they could compete on the big stage. LaSalle scored only a second-inning run off Lorenzo-Lugo, but the Bulldogs also left eight runners on base.
Archbishop Carroll kept Gulliver Prep to a scoreless tie through six innings until the Bulldogs committed an error and surrendered a three-run homer in the seventh.
“As soon as we got on the bus (after Gulliver Prep), everyone had a sense that we belonged,” Blanco said. “They had a lot of confidence. I told the assistant coach that that was a good thing. The kids just left there saying we’re not that far away.”
The Bulldogs proved that with a 20-game winning streak that carried them into the 3A semifinals. Seniors Jonathan Leon, Ricardo Alvarez, Ryan Pereda, Lorenzo-Lugo, Joseph Luzarraga, Alfredo Silva and Paolo Maldonado led the rush. Leon hit a team-high eight home runs and had a team-high 41 RBIs this year while hitting .425. Pereda hit .404 with 18 RBIs. Lorenzo-Lugo hit .459 with two home runs and 34 RBIs, Luzarraga hit .333, Alvarez hit .373, Maldonado hit .246.
This season, the Florida High School Athletic Association instituted a pitch-count to protect pitchers from overuse. The Bulldogs were already developing pitching depth to eliminate concern. “We were close (to the 105-pitch limit) once,” Blanco said. “In reality, my starters would pitch once a week. The seven-day-off (rule) was fine, because our schedule was so spread out.”
Lorenzo-Lugo and Maldonado carried the pitching staff. Lorenzo-Lugo went 8-3 with a 2.50 ERA, while Maldonado went 6-0. Rey Gonce went 5-0 with three saves, while Gabriel Figueroa also went 3-0; Pereda and Silva also had starts for the Bulldogs.
Underclassmen also carried the load. Alex Perez hit a team-high .563, and Chris Fernandez hit .425 with two home runs and 39 RBIs.
Blanco said that Gonce and Fernandez provided pleasant surprises with their development. Gonce switched from second base to third base.
“He grew into his body,” Blanco said. “He’s strong physically, so we moved him. He had a great defensive year. He also hit .350 in the 2-hole. He just performed.”
Fernandez hit .400 as a catcher. In the cleanup spot, he struck out only four times.
Developing depth for the future is vital because of the loss of seniors. Alvarez signed with Division I Shorter University in Georgia, while Silva will play for NAIA-level St. Mary’s College in Leavenworth, Kan. Pereda and Leon are considering offers to play college baseball, while the other three seniors also will attend college.
“If it’s any indication, yesterday after the (semifinal) game, we had our team meeting,” Blanco said. “There’s a lot of would-I’s. They couldn’t wait to get back on the field. Eight of the guys are now heading to Jupiter to play in a tournament. They wanted to be back. They promised the seniors they’ll be back.”
After all, the Bulldogs have poured the foundation for a tradition. They want to build upon it. The baseball team capped off a school year that also included a Final-Four finish in boys basketball. Blanco credited the school, administration and community for their assistance.
But he acknowledged it would be tough to get back there.
“We’re hungry for the attention and everything that comes with it,” he said. “At this level, it’s difficult to get one, let alone two. This is a good stepping stone. I’m ready for (the state tournament) to be a yearly thing. I can’t wait to get started in August and September and get into the weight room.”