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37 posts from April 2008

April 30, 2008

Archbishop McCarthy's "guy behind the guys"

Know of any high schools with a director of baseball operations?

Archbishop McCarthy coach Steve DeMatties didn't.

"I've never heard of a baseball program at the high school level that has a director of baseball operations," DeMatties said.

That is, before this season -- thanks to the guy who hired the former Miami Beach and Stranahan coach: ex-Marlin Alex Fernandez, who took that very "director of baseball operations" position last fall for the Mavericks, after his son entered Archbishop McCarthy as a freshman (Fernandez also owns two StrikeZone stores, one of which is across the street from the school).

That new position has bred results -- and very visible ones. Not only did the Monsignor Pace graduate hire an experienced coaching staff (DeMatties was drafted by the Mets, while assistant Nelson Santovenia played for the Expos, White Sox and Royals), but he brought a new ballpark with him.

As in, new fencing, batting cages, dressing area, infield, sprinkler system -- pretty much everything.

Oh, and the Mavericks just completed the best season (19-7-2) in their history, hosting a regional game for the first time (although they lost 6-5 to Key West on Tuesday). Coincidence? Probably not.

Who knows if it'll continue. But DeMatties and Fernandez seem to think so.

"This is going to be the place to play," DeMatties said.

Added Fernandez: "I really feel good about building a great, all-around school for the baseball program.

"It's not only about sports, but about everything else. ... It's a learning facility for life, and I think that's very important."

--Patrick Dorsey (e-mail)

April 29, 2008

From the "late Tuesday" files...

Thanks to lightning delays/early deadlines, the Flanagan-Douglas 6A regional quarterfinal couldn't make Wednesday's Herald.

That's a shame.

Because Flanagan's 4-3, last-inning win was something to see (at least according to the coach's description).

Before lightning struck (read: before this writer had to leave in order to file a story from an earlier game, Archbishop McCarthy-Key West), Douglas was leading 3-0 after a fluky first inning in which a couple of dribblers turned into big hits. But Falcons starter R.J. Fondon had calmed down (he retired 10 in a row at one point), matching equally effective Douglas pitcher Stephen Colangelo.

Then the sky lit up, the game stopped...and the fortunes of two teams, apparently, changed.

When play resumed (in the top of the fifth), the Eagles had runners on first and second with one out. Fondon walked the next batter to load the bases. Then Corey Witkowski came in, got the force at home and a flyout to end the inning (he would strike out four of his next five batters).

In the bottom of the sixth, outfielder Zach Jackson -- a strikeout victim in his first two trips -- tripled. Rolando Gomez knocked him in on a groundout (he reached on an error, actually) to give the Falcons their first run.

But that was just the beginning for Jackson, for the Falcons -- and for Gomez. First, Jackson drew a bases-loaded walk in the seventh to make it 3-2. Then came Gomez (profiled a bit here), who launched a two-run double off the left field wall to end it.

"Right person, right spot, all year," assistant coach Joe Chacko said.

Flanagan (20-7) faces Taravella on Friday. Here's hoping that game doesn't get delayed.

--Patrick Dorsey (e-mail)

April 28, 2008

Last (or almost last) chance to see Gomez

A rare talent will be on display Tuesday night. Maybe for the last time in Broward (if his team loses). Maybe even for the last time -- for a while, anyway -- in South Florida (if the draft falls the right way).

So there's a chance the regional quarterfinal between Flanagan and Douglas (read about it in Tuesday's Herald) will be the last chance to see Falcons shortstop Rolando Gomez.

Watching Gomez against Cypress Bay last Thursday, it was easy to see why the guy is committed to the University of Miami (and expected to replace Jemile Weeks, if he leaves), why RISE Magazine ranks him the 25th-best senior in the nation. He doesn't have the powerful build of American Heritage's even-more-heralded prospect Eric Hosmer (Gomez is listed at 5-10, 160), the Flanagan star has presence. When he stands in the batter's box, he just looks like a stud middle-infielder.

He also swings and fields like one (despite booting a ground ball Thursday night, which coach Ray Evans called "uncharacteristic"). He's hitting around .500, has eight home runs and 30-plus RBI -- all while being the guy everyone knows to pitch around.

But let's let Evans get the last few words:

"What a joy to coach. I mean, the kid's a tireless worker. He's an unbelievable baseball player. He's got great athleticism. He's very talented. He's a quiet leader. He doesn't open his mouth much at all. He just goes out there and does his job. He's one of the best shortstops in the nation, bar none. Everybody knows that."

"When he gets up, it's almost like, 'Showtime.' He's going to get up, he's going to do something spectacular.

"He's a step above high school baseball, without a doubt. This kid is definitely going to be a professional baseball player. Maybe sooner than not. And we've gotten the opportunity to watch him play before he's there, and it's pretty neat to watch him grow."

--Patrick Dorsey (e-mail)

April 27, 2008

A matter of manners

Standing watch as the Class 2A boys' discus finalists warmed up, I sneezed.

"Bless you," someone replied.

That someone: American Heritage senior Cornell Sneed, who was minutes away from trying to justify his No. 1 seed -- against friendly Broward rival Jeff Pelage -- and who, at that point, had no idea who I was.

Later, speaking to reporters after being honored at the podium for his second-place finish (Pelage edged him by two feet), Sneed was happy, congratulatory toward his opponent, and surprised at his success.

He even called us "sir" and "ma'am."

Bless you? Sir and ma'am? Was this really a high-level athlete?

Of course, one might just chalk it up to Sneed being Sneed. One of his potential college choices is West Point, after all (the other is East Tennessee State, home to throwing guru Meg Stone). Also Sneed -- not a qualifier in shot put -- spent some time coaching up Pace's DeAndre Johnson between Johnson's shot put throws.

But in watching (and talking to) Pelage, Sneed clearly wasn't the lone Saturday thrower who brought the term "good kid" to mind.

Try this: When Pelage obliterated the field with his first shot put toss (56 feet, 3 1/4 inches), he immediately told the other seven finalists to keep their heads up -- in no way meaning it as a taunt.

Oh, and Pelage is headed to Boston University on a scholarship in trash-talking's favorite sport, basketball.

Apparently, throwing is a little bit different.

"We support each other," Pelage said. "Somebody gets a good throw, you say, 'Good throw.' You respect their throw. You don't want to disrespect them and say, 'Oh, lucky.' You don't say stuff like that. ... It's about improvement. Everyone's working. Everyone made it here for some reason. Nothing's just lucky. They got out here for some reason."

Pelage and Sneed included. Guess nice guys can finish first (and second, if they're going head-to-head).

--Patrick Dorsey (e-mail)

April 26, 2008

An all-county rant

For those who don't know me as well as some of the longtime coaches, I take a tremendous amount of pride in the compilation of my All-Broward teams for each of the sport. Whereas others may take a few hours to put one together, I craft mine over a week or two. I try to speak with coaches and go off what I've seen. I go off a team's success. How far did they make it? Did they win titles? Were they clearly the best?

I factor everything in, but I ask for help. Too often, however, I don't receive it. We send ballots out to the schools' athletic directors, asking them to forward it to the appropriate person. I know this gets done because I'm the one who does it.

Yet, we do not get enough ballots back. When there is more time (like after the fall and winter seasons), I can call and track down information and get a truly polished and complete team.

Why do i bring this up now? With our annual All-Broward Athletic Awards breakfast rapidly approaching on May 22, we do not have the time to track down coaches and get information. We have to go with what we have. In softball, for example, ballots were due on April 21. I sent a final notice to schools on Apr. 24 (late at night) to let the athletic directors know their school's information was missing, and i set a final deadline of Apr. 25.

I got a few more in, but not nearly enough. I received information (either through ballots or from direct conversations with the coaches) from 24 of the 50 Broward schools with softball programs. Therefore, there are several teams with winning records that will be unrepresented or under-represented when the teams come out in May. Yes, I feel bad the kids from certain schools are not rewarded for their hard work, but what can I do? I am sure I will get e-mails asking how I could miss Player X? And, when I do, I will simply reply, "Because your school's coach failed to submit information."

Believe it or not, when I do Scholar Athlete or All-Broward teams, 60-70% of the work associated is tracking down coaches and athletic directors -- either through e-mail after e-mail or call after call -- just to get information. It is embarrassing that schools do not care enough to do the work for their athletes to receive recognition, but that is unfortunately how it goes.

Oh, in case you were wondering, softball is selected. First, second and third teams are all complete. Any tardy ballots will result strictly in names being added to honorable mention. I know this probably sounds a little harsh, but it is reality. I just hope the ballot submission rate improves in 2009.

Flag football final four

While the rest of the state (or at least the flag-football-playing parts) figure out their regional finalists Saturday, Broward's are set -- with some surprising results.

Dillard, last year's state runner-up: gone. Monarch, last year's other Broward quarterfinalist: done. Miramar, which won the whole thing in 2006: bounced at home by District 24 champ Everglades last Wednesday.

(In fact, this reporter's not-so-informed preseason predictions correctly identified just one of five district winners this year...)

The real winners: Douglas (which beat Piper 26-7 on Friday to reach the regional semis), Plantation, Hollywood Hills and Everglades. Two of these four will represent the county in Boca Raton in Friday's quarterfinals, and one will reach next Saturday's state Final Four.

Here's guessing Douglas wins at least one game. The Eagles survived a tough district (beating the aforementioned Monarch 19-7) with one of the area's best records (14-1). Plantation, meanwhile, scored a couple of upsets and travels to Douglas on Tuesday with just a 6-5 record.

The other side isn't as clear. Hollywood Hills won big over talented Cypress Bay for the District 23 title, but Everglades' D looked downright dominant against Miramar.

Call it a toss-up. Either way, Boca Raton will see a couple of contenders come Friday.

--Patrick Dorsey (e-mail)

April 25, 2008

South Florida's Tennis Titans

What a week for Dade and Broward at the state tennis championships.
I can't remember the last time South Florida won this many team titles.

Seven of the eight team trophies went to Dade and Broward.

Krop's girls started what they hope will become a dynasty, winning their second straight and the Cypress Bay boys secured the 4A title at long last.

And then there was the Gulliver boys, which throttled Jacksonville Bolles, winning every singles finals match.

Ransom sweeps the 1A and what a classic finish by Anson McCook for the boys to win their first team crown in 10 years. He did his best Andre Agassi celebration to boot, which must have been a great moment to witness.

St. Thomas' girls won in 3A, giving Broward three championships for the week.

Meanwhile, it's not over yet.

McCook will be competing for the singles overall championship, and Gonzales Austin will be competing for the overall doubles title as well.

And Rachel Saiontz can cap the storied history of her family with an overall championship today if she can beat rival Casey Hertzberg of Miami Country Day again. Saiontz and Jaime Yapp-Shing are also going for the overall doubles title.

The Princeton-bound star's older sister Melissa won five individual titles from 2004-2006.

I'm up at Winter Park covering the small school state track with Patrick. One of us will blog later. Look for Dade Christian's boys and girls and Westminster Academy's boys to make strong runs at the team crowns.

April 23, 2008

Everybody's (girls' lacrosse) All-American

Courtesy of Pine Crest girls' lacrosse coach Eileen Pliske, the 2008 All-American, All-League and All-District selections from the coaches of the South Florida Chapter of U.S. Lacrosse have been released.

Broward's lone All-American was Pine Crest midfielder Sterling Champion, and honorable mention selection last season (the other four picks were from Vero Beach). Here's the full list:

All-Americans: Sterling Champion, Pine Crest; Camile Kramer, Vero Beach; Ariel Lane, Vero Beach; Jennifer Leffew, Vero Beach; Laurie Livings, Vero Beach. Honorable-mention: Cassidy Bartholomew, Vero Beach; Alyssa Bernfeld, Park Vista; Heidi Blouin, Wellington; Brittani Peck, Park Vista; Jaime Reeg, Park Vista.

Champion, who helped lead Pine Crest to the District 12 title, also was Broward's only first-team All-League selection. Katie Abers (Pine Crest), Glynis McGowan (Pine Crest) and Danielle Wiedmeier (St. Thomas Aquinas) earned second-team honors, while Megan Harmon (St. Thomas), Tasha Noveletsky (Pine Crest), Beth Howard (Pine Crest), Casey Weliver (St. Thomas) and Lauren Dunn (St. Thomas) were third-team selections, and Sevannah English (Pine Crest), Kelsey Cronauer (Pine Crest) and Caitlyn Ryan (St. Thomas) earned honorable-mention.

The All-District 12 team comprised players from all five participating schools:

First Team: Megan Harmon (St. Thomas), Tasha Noveletsky (Pine Crest), Beth Howard (Pine Crest), Casey Weliver (St. Thomas), Caitlyn Ryan (St. Thomas), Sterling Champion (Pine Crest), Glynis McGowan (Pine Crest), Savannah English (Pine Crest), Lauren Dunn (St. Thomas), Katie Abers (Pine Crest), Kelsey Cronauer (Pine Crest) and Danielle Wiedmeier (St. Thomas). Second Team: Michelle Kamp (St. Thomas), Nikki Hope (Cardinal Gibbons), Maddie Lesser (Pine Crest), Stephanie Gore (University), Erin Kelley (Cardinal Gibbons), Sarah Motta (Cardinal Gibbons), Brooke Kennedy (Cardinal Gibbons), Emily Braun (Pine Crest), Valentina Casanova (St. Thomas), Stephanie Kreitzer (North Broward Prep), Jessica Pappa (Cardinal Gibbons), Jessica Parker (University). Honorable-mention: Samantha Didio (North Broward Prep), Marissa Enfield (Pine Crest), Kristie Newbauer (Cardinal Gibbons).

--Patrick Dorsey (e-mail)

2008 regionals: A softball odyssey

Some observations from Tuesday's softball regional action (read about it here and here), which this reporter watched from Douglas High and SilverLakes Park South...

  • At Douglas, the District 11-6A-champ Eagles fell 5-1 to Flanagan (District 12-6A runner-up). But that's not the end for Douglas, which finished the season 22-6 -- despite starting six freshmen. "They've got a good, young team," Flanagan coach Chandler Searcy said. "They're going to be great in the future."
  • Same game, scary moment: Douglas pinch-hitter Kaitlyn Arnett took a Lauren Heil pitch off the helmet in the bottom of the seventh, then stayed on the ground (though obviously conscious) for a couple of minutes. Arnett left the game, but coach Joe Cotrone said she was OK afterward.
  • Pines Charter had its batter intro music working Tuesday night. Most songs were of the typical pop variety (disappointingly, nobody picked Opeth's new single). But Gators everywhere rejoice; UF-bound senior Alicia Sisco took the batter's box to the Gator Chomp. Go Gators...
  • There just might be something about the name Lauren, at least as Broward pitchers go. The aforementioned Heil, a UF-bound senior, moved to 11-1 on Tuesday, allowing just one run to an Eagles team she called "scrappy." Over at Pines Charter, junior Lauren Sewell (14-0) struck out 13 of the 15 batters she faced and didn't allow the ball to leave the infield. And in St. Thomas Aquinas' 1-0 win over Cape Coral Ida Baker, the winning pitcher: senior lefty Lauren Kramer, who went the distance in the shutout.

Next up, Friday's regional semifinals, featuring a few interesting matchups/rematches. As usual, you can read about it here, or in The Herald.

--Patrick Dorsey (e-mail)

April 22, 2008

Otis Gray Jr. camp details

A note in today's Broward roundup mentioned two camps taking place this Saturday in Lauderdale Lakes -- one for football, another for cheerleading -- in honor of late Dillard football coach Otis Gray Jr.

Sponsored in part by Gray's son, Houston Texans quarterback Quinn Gray, the camp will feature former and current NFL players. The cheerleading camp will feature members of some of Broward County's top high school cheerleading squads. There is no cost for admission.

The camps are open to participants aged 5 to 15. Registration for both begins at 9 a.m., and the camps will run all day (football at Vincent Torres Park, 4330 NW 36th St.; cheerleading at Willie L. Webb Sr. Park, 3601 NW 21st St.).

Expanding on this, the former and current NFL players are to include:

  • Quinn Gray
  • Jaguars running back (and former Gray teammate) Fred Taylor (a Glades Central grad)
  • Packers cornerback Al Harris (Ely)
  • Steelers cornernback Bryant McFadden (McArthur)
  • Brothers and former players Zack and Henri Crockett (both from Ely)
  • Ex-NFL wide receiver Lorenzo Davis (Dillard)

About 10 to 12 in total are expected, the others TBD.

--Patrick Dorsey (e-mail)