Since falling behind by nine runs in the first two innings in the District 9-5A final against Satellite, Melbourne Central Catholic’s run to the state baseball tournament has been considerably easier.
The Hustlers, now winners of 19 consecutive games, rebounded against the Scorps, winning 12-9. In three regional playoff games since, MCC has outscored the opposiition 23-1. Only a 2-0 win over McKeel in the regional quarterfinal round went the distance.
Wednesday at 4 p.m., the Hustlers take their 30-1 record into a Class 5A state semifinal game against Jacksonville Bolles at Jet Blue Park in Fort Myers. That’s a school record for wins in a season.
Bolles is 26-3 and is making its first state tournament appearance since 2007. Like MCC, the Bulls cruised through regional play, outscoring their regional opponents 24-1.
MCC won the 2013 Class 3A title on the same field over Jacksonville Providence. Five current MCC seniors were ninth-graders on that team, and 2016 star Mark Potter got the win in the final.
Will Erdman and Austin Nickle also played significantly in that championship game, and after last week’s 10-0 win over Sarasota Booker to earn a state berth, Erdman singled out unpredictability as the main thing he learned from the experience.
“I learned that any team can win, because, as freshmen when we went there, we were definitely underdogs,” he said. “No one was expecting us to win.”
MCC coach Tom Dooley insisted every team is different, but he did mention one similarity between the 2013 winner and this Hustlers team.
“They have that confidence. They believe they can win, and they believe in each other,” he said. “Of course, you’ve also got to have some luck and some guys who can play.”
Potter, one such player, is 11-0 this season with 91 strikeouts and a 0.69 ERA. Austin Nickle and Daniel Acosta are both 6-0.
At the plate, Potter has hit .467 and driven in 33 runs. Nickle is at .465 and 27, while Christian Smallwood leads in both categories with a .488 average and 43 RBIs. Erdman has hit .358 with 19 RBIs.
Dooley also credited senior leadership, including those who played active roles in that first title as well as seniors Robert Borell and Mike Ridyard.
“They’re such great leaders,” he said. “They have the respect of everyone.”
The Bulls’ leading pitcher is Hunter Barco, who is 11-0 with a 0.59 ERA and 81 strikeouts.
In Wednesday’s second semifinal, Bishop Moore will face Monsignor Pace of Miami. The two winners will play for the 5A title at 7:35 p.m. Thursday.
Contact McCallum at 321-242-3698 or email@example.com. Follow @Brian_McCallum on Twitter and facebook.com/FLtoday.brianmccallum.
Wednesday’s high school sports events
Class 5A state baseball at Fort Myers
Melbourne Central Catholic vs. Jacksonville Bolles, 4 p.m.
Spring football games
Lake Wales at Palm Bay, 6:30
Satellite at Cocoa Beach, 7
Spruce Creek at Viera, 7