I went out to catch a UM baseball game at Mark Light Field Sunday and saw a fantastic debut by last year's Class 4A-1A Pitcher of the Year and Monsignor Pace grad Chris Hernandez.
That's not all, Hernandez threw to last year's 6A Hitter of the Year Yasmani Grandal, catcher from Miami Springs.
Hernandez threw six innings and gave up only three hits - all singles - and struck out eight in a 7-0 win against Cincinnati.
Now I know some might say, hey "it's Cincinnati," do that against UF or an ACC team. But I say its pretty good for a freshman making his first start and knowing he's been tabbed as one of the three starters that will go week after week. Most of the time, a freshman pitcher will begin out of the bullpen or making those spot starts in the middle of the week.
"Once I got a couple of strikes, any nerves out there were gone," Hernandez said. "Me and Yaz [Grandal] worked real well together. I think I only shook off a sign maybe twice the whole game. He knew exactly what I wanted to throw."
Grandal went 1-for-4 with an RBI double in the bottom of the 8th off the center field wall. The Canes' backup catcher right now to Jason Haggerty, called his own pitches and said he finally timed his swing perfectly on the last at-bat. He popped up the first three times.
"I was hacking a little early the first three times," said Grandal, who led the county in home runs with 13 his senior season at Springs. "The speed of the game is something I'm still getting used to. But my catching coach Joe Mercadante has been working a lot with me on that in practice."
UM, which again has a roster replete with former Dade stars, had two more clutch performances from 305 alumni.
Former American star Adan Severino hit his first UM home run as part of a four-run sixth inning that broke the game open. Severino, who is a transfer from Broward Community College, crushed the ball.
Former Coral Gables ace Jason Santana continued the Canes' solid bullpen performances during the weekend sweep by striking out three in two relief innings.
The most important statistic -- NO WALKS.
Hernandez and Santana had outstanding control and avoided an issue that plagued UM hurlers last season.
It could be a memorable evening for the 305 at the Lakeland Center tonight.
A total of 13 individuals from Dade could go home with gold medals at state wrestling and the county's best team by far could finally take the hardware it's coveted for so long.
South Dade has a choke hold on the 3A team lead, which should only increase with five finalists.
And in Class 1A, congrats to Pace for being in 2nd right now. I looked at the brackets like at 6 p.m. and saw them in 7th, but the Spartans made a huge jump with Didley Weche and Julian Martinez winning their semifinal matches.
Here's a quick look at the finals:
103 - Earl Hall (Homestead) vs. Mauricio Villanueva (South Dade)
Rematch of the regional final, won by only one point by Hall. Can the freshman finish unbeaten or will his top rival give the Bucs even more glory?
112 - Eric Chandler (Braddock) vs. Kyle Grueninger (Clearwater Countryside)
Chandler, who has lost only once, goes for title No. 3 which would set up his bid for a first career sweep next year. Grueninger is 49-2.
119 - No Dade. Braddock's Gabe Chandler lost in semi to Osceola's Pete Baldwin.
125 - James "Rat" Williams (South Dade) vs. Matt Nereim (Winter Springs)
Will Rat get his redemption?
130 - Michael Nates (Hialeah) vs. Wilson Metellus (South Dade)
Both guys are former state runners-up. Nates lost his only match in the regional semis. This will probably be the best of the Dade vs. Dade final matches.
135 - Tico Baez (South Dade) vs. Uxsunn Ramirez (Southwest)
This one will likely be "The Coronation." The winningest wrestler in Dade history can finish on a high note.
140 - Rey Parrado (Goleman) vs. Carlos Montero (Coral Gables)
Parrado was the regional champion, but Montero has only one loss all season.
145 - Kendrick Sanders (South Dade) vs. Josh Keebler (Oviedo)
Sanders goes for two straight and how fitting for the Bucs if they beat at least one Oviedo wrestler on South Dade's big day.
152 - No Dade. Osceola's Alex Eggers ousted South Dade's Luis Montalvo in the semis. South Broward's Ivan Lopuchansky should win the title.
160 - No Dade. Lakeland's John Nichols eliminated American's George Garcia in the semis. South Broward's Allen Held should win the title.
171 - Tommy Perez (American) vs. Niko Brown (Osceola)
Perez is unbeaten, but this will be his toughest match of the year against Brown, who is battle-tested at 48-1.
189 - Javoris Plain (Southridge) vs. Deron Carter (Flagler Palm Coast)
The "Man Beast" wrestles like his nickname portrays. I'd be shocked if he lost this one, no disrespect to Carter.
215 - No Dade. The county's last participant here was Willie Wiggins, who was beat by Palm Beach Gardens' Jacob Brady in the quarterfinals.
Heavyweight - Michael Chinchilla (Sunset) vs. Dustin Heiser (Orlando Olympia)
The master of the fast pin during the playoffs, Chinchilla can give Sunset its first heavyweight champion ever.
103 - Ricky Rodriguez (Belen) vs. Rossi Bruno (Tampa Bay Christian)
Rodriguez will try to become the Wolverines' first champ since Jason Machado pulled a "3-peat" from 2002-2004. Bruno is an undefeated 8th grader (39-0).
152 - Diddley Weche (Pace) vs. Joshua Trippett (Glen St. Mary Baker County)
My colleague Frank DeMarzo was blown away yesterday watching Didley Weche's semifinal win. He will try to be Pace's 1st ind. champ since Tony Santiago in 1998 and only the school's second ever.
171- Julian Martinez (Pace) vs. Carter Downs (Jupiter Christian)
Martinez pinned his two opponents Friday and stands a good chance to give Pace a pair of state champions for the first time.
There it is as Dade gets ready to show Florida exactly why it is the toughest wrestling county in the state.
With recruiting having become a year-round spectacle, it is now never too early to start looking ahead to the 2009 recruiting class in Miami-Dade and Broward. So, last week, a day after the 2008 class was complete, I sat down with recruiting guru Larry Blustein to compile Pre-Spring football rankings for next year's classes in Dade and Broward. This is what we came up with.
MIAMI-DADE/BROWARD PRESPRING RANKINGS
1. Eugene Smith, QB, 6-3, 195, Miramar
2. Lamar Miller, RB, 5-11, 215, Killian
3. Oliver Vernon, DE, 6-3, 220, American
4. Dwayne Difton, WR, 6-1, 175, St. Thomas Aquinas
5. Frankie Telfort, LB, 5-11, 205, Gulliver Prep
6. Shane Gordon, LB, 6-1, 210, Cypress Bay
7. Ed Stinson, DE, 6-5, 235, South Dade
8. Antwan Lowery, DL, 6-3, 300, Columbus
9. Ricardo Dixon, DB, 6-0, 190, Hallandale
10. Brandon McGee, QB, 6-1, 180, Plantation
11. Xavier Rhodes, WR, 6-2, 180, Norland
12. Trabis Ward, RB, 5-10, 200, Ft. Lauderdale Dillard
13. Brandon Taylor, DL, 6-1, 295, Dr. Krop
14. Rodney Smith, WR, 6-5, 201, Archbishop Carroll
15. Tevin McCaskill, S, 6-1, 190, Northwestern
16. Duron Carter, WR, 6-1, 180, St. Thomas Aquinas
17. Jamaal Berry, RB, 5-11, 190, Miami Palmetto
18. Sterling Griffin, S, 6-1, 175, Monsignor Pace
19. Quan Anthony Fletcher, LB , 6-2, 240, Dr. Krop
20. Natturner Harris, DB, 6-1, 180, Booker T. Washington
21. Jared Wheeler, OL, 6-6, 295, American Heritage
22. A'kevis Anderson, S, 5-10, 200, Hallandale
23. Victor Marc, QB, 6-1, 200, Hallandale
24. Michael Carter, CB , 6-0, 170, Ely
25. Nico Flores, QB, 6-3, 210, North Miami Beach
Others to watch
Miami-Dade: WR Kenny Whittaker, 5-11, 165, Columbus; WR Dontravious Floyd, 6-3, 205, South Dade; WR Gary Bush, 6-1, 180, Columbus; WR Darryl Williams, 5-9, 180, Palmetto; OL Danny Palacio, 6-3, 300, Archbishop Carroll; LB Daniel Mack, 6-0, 195, Dade Christian; DB Frank Crawford, 6-1, 180, Gulliver; DB David Ribero, 5-11, 170, Archbishop Carroll; DB Derrick Hopkins, 5-6, 160, Monsignor Pace.
Broward: QB Denard Robinson, 6-0, 190, Deerfield Beach; QB Ryan Becker, 6-0, 185, St. Thomas Aquinas; RB DeShaun Sands, 5-8, 175, Coconut Creek Monarch; WR Steadman Bailey, 6-1, 180, Miramar; OL Steven Jacques, 6-5, 280, South Broward; LB Connor O'Neill, 6-1, 180, Thomas Aquinas; LB Austin Gamble, 6-0, 205, Cypress Bay; LB Roderic Blount, 6-0, 200, Everglades; S Adrian Whitty, 5-11, 185, Deerfield Beach.
Feel free to give us your thoughts as time progresses. Obviously this is a very early list. We'll tinker with it after the spring games in May.
Also, be sure to checkout the latest edition of The Countdown, our high school podcast. It's the conversation Blustein and I had wrapping up the 2008 class and looking ahead to 2009.
-- MANNY NAVARRO
Norland beat Krop 57-37 Friday to even the season series at 2-2.
The Vikings host HML at "The Ship," while Shakey Rodriguez takes the Lightning to his old stomping grounds at Miami High.
Both Krop victories were at home, Norland won their home game in a thrilling OT comeback win and the win Friday was at American.
If both teams win Thursday, the decisive round 5 would be Tuesday, Feb. 19 at Norland.
After Broward went 0-for last week in placing a girls' soccer team in the FHSAA Finals (being contested right here in Fort Lauderdale), three Broward boys' teams get their shot to stay home and compete for a championship.
Cypress Bay, missing keeper Jesse Fullerton, will be hard pressed to get by Wellington tonight.
St. Thomas Aquinas and American Heritage may be Broward's best chance.
Check back in a few hours to see.
Dade, by the way, sent two girls' teams to the Finals. The first one lost already, and the second one plays this afternoon.