Flanagan High of Pembroke Pines, Fla. has lofty expectations for its baseball program. The Falcons have three state titles since 2005 and have made it to the semi-finals four times. In addition to the 6-A title in 2010, Flanagan was named Baseball America's Team of the Year after losing just two games to perennial powers Farragut High (Knoxville) and American Heritage High (Plantation, Fla.) by a total of three runs.
It would be easy to take Flanagan lightly for 2011 after seven seniors went on to play baseball in college and 150 out of 180 innings on the mound were lost to graduation. But head coach Ray Evans has his team off to an 10-2 start after sweeping the Tournament of Champions in Jacksonville this past weekend.
"We weren't too sure what we were getting into," Evans said. "It would have been easy to walk out with three losses. We played three games in two days. It was a difficult format. You have to have enough pitching."
The event was hosted by Jacksonville's Eagle's View Academy and featured eight schools that won a 2010 state championship in either Georgia or Florida.
Columbus High, Georgia's 3-A champion last year, dropped out of the Top 25 this week after losing it's second game at the hands of the Falcons. The Blue Devils were without two of their best arms and had Flanagan on the ropes, but were unable to close it out, losing 11-6.
"They're a well-coached team," Evans said of Columbus. "They have a lot of talent. That was a big game for us. Our lefty, Mike Emigh, came up big and threw very well."
Emigh is now 3-0, 1.75 in 16 innings pitched. He's struck out 22 and walked eight. Third baseman Andres Sanchez's hot bat is leading the offense right now as he's hitting .548 with seven home runs and 23 RBIs in 31 at-bats.
The next morning Flanagan played a close game with Norcross, Ga.'s Wesleyan School, winning 5-4 to set up a final tilt against Marist School of Atlanta. Marist was ranked No. 46 in the Preseason Top 50.
"We didn't get to watch them play and they had beaten (Miami's) Westminster (Christian)," Evans said. "They swung the bat pretty well. There were a lot of balls hit hard that were caught."
Flanagan played well defensively and got a good outing from junior righthander Jose Mesa to secure the 3-1 win.
Despite the departures from last year's team and already having as many losses as they did in 2010, Evans and his staff fully expect to keep competing at high levels.
"We had seven seniors last year," Evans added. "This year we have eight. We always have a good mixture of upper classmen. It's a program thing. There is no let down. We're expected to be doing what we do each and every year. We're a constant program. We preach that to the kids and they buy into what we do. We have a phenomenal coach staff and we work so hard to succeed.
Florida schools are on spring break this week so the Jacksonville tournament was just the start of big matchups. The Sarasota Classic and Selective Recruiting High School Spring Break Tournament started Monday night.
The Classic is hosted by Sarasota (Fla.) High and includes two teams with big outlooks for 2011. West Boca High of Boca Raton, Fla. has two preseason All-Americans in righthander Michael Kelly and shortstop Tyler Greene. Bishop Verot Catholic High of Fort Myers, Fla. has its own preseason All-Americans in righthander Hudson Boyd and first baseman Dan Vogelbach. Unfortunately, the two teams will not face off. Bishop Verot won its first game 7-0 behind six innings of one-hit pitching from Boyd. He struck out 13. Vogelbach had two hits including an RBI single. West Boca lost 3-2 in extra innings to Lakewood Ranch High of Bradenton, Fla.
The Selective Recruiting Tournament is being held in the Miami area and has one team from the Top 25, No. 6 Archbishop McCarthy High of Southwest Ranches, Fla., but also has several others to watch in American Heritage, Miami's Columbus High and Westminster Christian, as well has Jupiter (Fla.) High and Hialeah's Mater Academy.
Archbishop McCarthy lost its first game of the tournament, but that won't be reflected in the rankings until the next poll. The Mavericks were no-hit by junior lefthander Luis Collazo of Miami's Columbus High. The Explorers won 5-0.
If you're not following me on Twitter already, you should add @BAHighSchool to your feed. Here's what you may have missed over the last week:
• Righthander Ricky Jacquez of Franklin (Texas) High struck out 20 in a game on March 8. That game made him 2-0 in three starts with 43 strikeouts and three walks in 18 1/3 innings. He had allowed just two earned runs, three total.
• Mountain View, Calif.'s St. Francis High moved to No. 1 this week and its game against Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd certainly helped. The Lancers were tasked with facing righthander Joe Ross, a Top 100 High School Prospect for the 2011 draft. St. Francis beat him 3-0 as righthander Ryan Degregorio tossed a one-hitter. Ross had six strikeouts and one walk in the start.
• Righthanders Benton Moss and Adam Griffin put there stuff on display at North Carolina's Impact Invitational. Moss' Rocky Mount (N.C.) High upset Griffin's Forsyth Country Day School (Lewisville, N.C.) 2-1. Both pitchers sat 88-91 with their fastballs. Moss' curveball looked good and he struck out six and walked one before being removed because of his pitch count. Griffin allowed both Rocky Mount runs on five hits while striking out six and walking four. The Invitational also featured two more interesting righthanders in Jordan Ramsey of North Davidson High (Lexington, N.C.) and Tyler Bolton of Kerr-Vance Academy of Henderson, N.C. Ramsey only had 25 pitches to work with, but sat 90-91 and touched 92 a couple of times. Bolton was 86-89, but showed a good, sharp curveball.
• Owasso (Okla.) High righthander Dylan Bundy threw a no-hitter against Winterhaven (Fla.) High, striking out 14. Owasso and rival Broken Arrow High are at Winterhaven for the Blue Devil Classic.
• 2012 righthander Lance McCullers Jr. got the start against Bishop Verot on March 12. He went 5 2/3, striking out 10 and walking one. He picked up the win, allowed one hit and two unearned runs.
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