High Heat: Coach Says McCarthy Squad Might Best He’s Had

SEE ALSO: High School Top 25

Archbishop McCarthy (Southwest Ranches, Fla.) is the new No. 1 team in BA’s High School Top 25 rankings after improving to 10-0 while tackling one of the most difficult schedules in the country with the arguably the deepest, most talented team in the nation.

The Mavericks boast two players in the preseason High School Top 100 in first baseman Alex Toral (No. 46) and righthander/corner infielder Joe Perez (No. 57), in addition to 13 current players committed to play collegiately.

So, is this squad the best that coach Rich Bielski—who has won six state championships in the past seven years—has ever had?

“I’ve had so many good teams, and we have been blessed to have amazingly talented teams in the past, but this team sure is making their run for it,” Bielski said.

“They’ve come really quick out of the gate. We’ve already beaten some pretty good teams this year. They show a lot of good signs that you look for in a ballclub, like comeback potential and putting games away when we need to and playing together as a team. We have really good chemistry, so I’d have to say at this point they’re sure making a run at it.”

While Bielski certainly thought that it was possible for his team to make it through these first 10 games unscathed, “in reality” he thought they would probably have a loss by now.

Not the case.

McCarthy has wins over strong teams in North Broward Prep (Coconut Creek, Fla.), Westminster Christian (Palmetto Bay, Fla.), Seacrest Country Day (Naples, Fla.) and American Heritage High (Plantation, Fla.), and has outscored opponents 85-16, including five shutouts.

That’s thanks to a special group of pitchers.

“This is by far the deepest pitching staff that I’ve had in my entire high school coaching career,” Bielski said. “And it’s really allowed us to take on such an insane schedule. We knew that coming in, when (director of baseball operations Alex Fernandez) made the schedule, that we were going to have deep pitching.

“We figured if there’s ever a year that we can just load up on every great team that we can find, this was the year for us to challenge ourselves and get us ready for the great teams we’re going to play this season.”

After Perez, who’s already throwing both a mid-90s fastball and a plus slider, the Mavericks trot out a plethora of options on the rubber. One of which is righthanded Miami commit Daniel Federman, who’s healthy this year after a back injury last season, and is throwing 90-92 with “excellent” command of a curveball and changeup, according to Bielski.

On top of a remarkably challenging schedule, a wealth of talent and a pair of assistant coaches with MLB experience—Fernandez had a 10-year career with the White Sox and Marlins, while catching coach Nelson Santovenia played for the Expos, White Sox and Royals—Bielski continues to challenge his players with grueling practices.

“Our philosophy is we win in our practice days,” Bielski said. “And our practice days are insanely tough. We make them work like dogs in practice and then the games are our reward.

“And the production we get in those games is all a reward for the hard work that we do during the week. So, you know, as soon as a game is over, the first thing we say is, ‘Tomorrow’s a workday. You guys had fun tonight with winning, we’ve got to get right back at it tomorrow.’ And really, almost punish ourselves the next day in practice to ensure that we’re going to continue to play at a high level.”

So far, that philosophy has paid off, and the Mavericks have lived up to the challenge, standing above every other high school team in the country.

Pinacle Shines At Horizon Invitational

Pinnacle High (Phoenix) jumped into the High School Top 25 this week at No. 6, thanks to its stroll through the Horizon Invitational tournament, where coach Roy Muller’s team outscored the opposition 48-7.

“We had a good week,” Muller said. “. . . Solid performances throughout—not just a few guys. Our pitching is really deep and everybody contributing a little (offensively) when we needed to.

“Scored a lot of runs playing small ball or whatever we need to do to win.”

Normally Pinnacle’s path to a win centers on pitching and defense. And while allowing just seven runs over five games against strong competition speaks to that area, the run production was a nice bonus.

“Our defense and pitching shows up a lot. Offensively, a little tougher,” Muller said with a laugh. “If that can show up, (we will) be competitive every game. If we’re pitching, (playing) defense and we’re hitting, we’re going to be in everything.”

Offensively, the Pioneers are led by senior shortstop Jake Holmes, who was the MVP of the tournament and is an Arizona State commit. Holmes participated in the 2016 Area Code games and is an intriguing prospect as a 6-foot-4, 200-pound shortstop who can run, hit and throw, according to Muller.

Holmes led off during four of the five Horizon Invitational games and hit .643 (9-14) with six runs, five RBI, two homers and a triple.

“Just a really solid, really good high school (player),” Muller said.

In the rotation, Pinnacle is led by senior righty Jason Nelson and followed by a trio of talented juniors: lefthander Calvin Schapira (who committed to Southern California last summer) and righthanders Mason Gray (who won the championship game against Stillwater) and Tyler Woessner.

As Muller describes it, he’s blessed to have the group.

“Nelson . . . right now he’s undefeated. His ERA, God, I don’t know what it’s at, but I don’t think he’s given up an earned run,” Muller said. “When they’re throwing and we’re playing some D, sometimes a couple runs can definitely do it.”

With the Horizon Invitational over and done with, Muller and Pinnacle will soon be tested as regional games get started on March 30. This year, that means back-to-back style series against some of the best baseball teams the state has to offer.

“I had some scouts tell me the other day, you could be .500 in our league and still be in the Top 10 in Arizona,” Muller said. “It’s that good. Everyday is a grind, but again, they gotta beat us. And that’s always how I’ve approached it, regardless of how good we are.

“We try to take care of (our side). But if we’re still doing that well towards the end then we would definitely be—I would think—a top six team.”

Canterbury Tales

The Canterbury School (Fort Myers, Fla.) plays a lighter schedule in its 3A classification, but the Cougars have challenged themselves with some difficult road contests early this season. The reigning 3A state champions jumped into this week’s high school rankings, checking in at No. 21 after an excellent start.

On Monday, Canterbury played a solid team in Christ Presbyterian Academy (Nashville, Tenn.) and took a decisive 13-3 win at the IMG National Classic in five innings.

The Cougars handed the ball to righthander Sam Keating, a Clemson recruit who has significant draft buzz this spring. After pitching mostly in the upper 80s last summer and fall, Keating has filled out his frame this spring, and he came right at CPA with a devastating four-pitch mix. In front of a crowd of a couple dozen scouts, Keating pitched at 89-91 mph and touched 92.

With Canterbury playing in such a low population classification relative to some other top-ranked programs, it has to battle a perception of being a big fish in a small pond, but the talent matches up well with many teams in more challenging regions and districts.

The Cougars got off to a strong start early on. Shortstop Cooper Swanson, a Florida State commit, led off the bottom of the first with a hard line drive that he backspun up the middle for a ground-rule double. Canterbury quickly loaded the bases with a walk and a hit by pitch. Then Giovanny Lorenzo, a switch-hitting catcher who is committed to Bethune Cookman, drove in three runs with a ground ball that got past the first baseman. All of this came against CPA righthander David Bates, a 6-foot-5 righthander who is committed to Vanderbilt.

Canterbury also has depth on the mound, an asset that could allow it to weather the storms of week-long tournaments. In addition to Keating, Swanson can also reach the low 90s on the mound. Tyler Shuck also has a quality arm and has performed well for the Cougars. Offensively, they are a tough team to retire from 1 to 9 in the lineup. Swanson offers significant power and junior Giovanni DiGiacomo is a lefthanded hitter with excellent pure hitting ability. He’s committed to Louisiana State.

In addition to this week’s tournament at IMG, Canterbury will also participate in the National High School Invitational in Cary, N.C. next week. If their performance continues, Canterbury could compete for a de facto national championship at NHSI.

— Hudson Belinsky

Comments are closed.

Download our app

Read the newest magazine issue right on your phone