Seacrest Country Day Falls To Miami Christian In 2A Final
Defending its 2A state championship was no small task for the Miami Christian Victors, but Thursday night they completed that mission by holding off a feisty Seacrest Country Day team for a 3-1 victory in the 2A state championship at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers. Sophomore phenom Alejandro Rosario continued to be a force on the mound to lead the team to victory, and the offense got all of its runs in support of their ace in the bottom of the first inning.
“We knew they had the big arm,” Seacrest Country Day manager Mark Marsala said. “We felt we could control their bats even though they could swing it, and we played a little bit deeper in the outfield defensively. But you can’t hide from the ball. When you’re out there you cannot hide from the ball and you have to make the plays and we didn’t do that tonight. We hurt ourselves tonight.”
Featuring a fastball sitting around 96 miles per hour, Rosario was poised and in control to lead the charge. The right-hander allowed one unearned run on two hits and two walks in six full innings, and he struck out eight. Even with full command on the mound, Rosario admitted it was no small task to keep the Stingrays at bay.
“They were a fighting team and they never gave up,” Rosario said. “We scored three early but they kept on fighting every time we came out here. I thought it wasn’t going to get more emotional, but it did. It got tougher.”
Miami Christian went right to work with its bats in the bottom of the first to stake Rosario with the lead. Jose Izarra lined a lead-off single to center and Christian Muniz followed with a flare past the diving third baseman. Adrian Rodriguez then sent a grounder up the middle that the defense fielded and erased the runner at second, but a wild throw to first on the double-play attempt allowed Izarra to score. Justin Dearmas drew a walk to keep it going and Gabriel Vasquez crushed a shot deep to the left-center field gap for a triple that plated both base runners for a 3-0 advantage.
Seacrest got something going for the first time in the top of the third. Kyle Kruk lined a single to left to start the frame, and eventually swiped second base. Rosario got two batters out swinging, but then issued a walk to Matt Riley that brought the tying run to the plate. Rosario got the final batter to also swing and miss to strikeout the side and keep the Stingrays off the scoreboard.
An error to begin the top of the fifth opened the door for Seacrest again, as Dwight Zafra reached safely to first base for a lead-off base runner. The Victors immediately responded by turning a double play, as Marcos Alvero snared a hard liner to third from Kruk and relayed to first to double off the runner. Rosario then shut the door by picking up his fifth strikeout of the night.
Seacrest was forced to pull starter Andrew Geiger after only three innings due to a defensive injury elsewhere in which and they needed him playing first base. Junior Brandon Espinosa was called on in late relief, and he was as effective as he has been all season and tossed three scoreless innings to keep his team in the game.
“When Justin Jackson stepped up this year I moved Brandon to the bullpen and he has taken on that role and done fantastic,” Marsala said. “I am just happy with all of them and proud of them. The effort was fantastic.”
The Stingrays finally broke through in the sixth. Jordan Martinez reached on an infield error and Matt Riley walked on four pitches for only Rosario’s second walk of the night. A throwing error then allowed Martinez to round third and put Seacrest on the scoreboard.
Once again Miami Christian tightened up to keep the Stingrays at bay. Rosario recorded back-to-back strikeouts and then snared a shot back to him for the third putout of the inning.
Down to the final three outs, Seacrest continued to battle. The Victors went to the bullpen for closer Jason Garcia, but he struggled to fill up the zone and issued walks to Zafra and Kruk to put the winning run at the plate with no outs. Garcia dug in and got the next batter swinging, and then his defense turned a 4-6-3 double play that closed out the game.
Although the end result was not the desired one, what the team showed over the season and especially in these final two game at the state tournament is a strong indication that a state title could be achieved someday in the near future. Young players typically on JV rosters were routinely making big plays on the biggest stage to show they are fearless and nothing is going to stop them from that goal.
“You see those amazing catches in center field, those are freshmen running those balls down. So that is a big part of what we’re building over here,” Marsala said. “Yesterday our freshman pitcher pitched lights out, so we’ve got a good base with the two freshmen and the four sophomores starting. They work their tails off in the classroom and that translates out onto the field. They are so coachable that it makes it easy. You can tell them things once or twice and you don’t have to come back to it. So I’m really blessed with these kids; it’s a great school and a great community. As long as get to work here in the next couple of days to start working for next season, we’ll get there. We hope to get back here. You never know how it goes, but that’s our plan is to get back here as soon as possible.”