Stoneman Douglas Wins 2022 National High School Invitational
For just the second time in the history of the National High School Invitational, it was a Florida team standing above the rest after the final game was finished.
In fact, for the first time in NHSI history, no team from California was involved in the championship game, as Stoneman Douglas (Parkland, Fla.) High took down fellow Florida-based program St. Johns Country Day (Orange Park, Fla.) High, 5-3.
Stoneman Douglas entered the championship game as -- statistically-- the most dominant club in the tournament. Their team batting average of .500 (42-for-84) was the best in the field; their team ERA of 0.44 was the best in the field and the only team sub-1.00; they were one of just five teams with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage after the first three days of the event.
Through their first three games, the team blitzed through their competition, defeating host school DH Conley (Greenville, N.C.) High 15-0 in the first round, then beating Yucaipa (Calif.) High 12-1 in the second round and took down the three-time defending NHSI champion Orange (Calif.) Lutheran team 11-0 in five innings to make the championship.
Altogether, the team had outscored its opponents 38-1.
The championship game, though, was a scrappier affair.
The Eagles took a quick 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning thanks to a few walks and hit by punches, plus a two-RBI single from designated hitter Chris Arroyo.
Just two innings later, in the top of the third, St. Johns would claw back and score three runs of their own, with Stoneman Douglas helping them along the way with three errors in the field.
“We knew it was going to be a dog fight tonight,” Fitz-Gerald said. “St. Johns does a really good job in the state of Florida. We know what kind of ball club they are. They’re scrappy…
“Our guys just hung in there. You know, we battled a little bit of adversity. Uncharacteristically we didn’t take care of the baseball at times. But we found a way to get a couple more runs and scratch away and bring in Arroyo there at the end.”
Third baseman Rylan Lujo (2024) hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third inning to give Stoneman Douglas a 4-1 lead and then righthanders Brandon White (2022) and Chris Arroyo (2022) combined for four innings of shutout relief work in support of lefty starter Jacob Gomberg (2023).
“I thought (Gomberg) did a really good job. We didn’t help him too much (defensively) and obviously some self-inflicted wounds but he hung in there and gave us a really good effort. I couldn’t be more happy for him.”
Arroyo, who was named the tournament MVP, entered the game after previously throwing 3.2 shutout innings in round one against DH Conley. He entered the game with two St. Johns' runners on base and a 5-3 Stoneman Douglas lead. After walking the bases loaded, Arroyo spiked a pitch that went past his catcher Santiago Ordonez (2022) and caromed into the backstop.
On third base, St. Johns left fielder Kyle Boylston was bolting home.
“As soon as I saw it go back I was like, “(The backstop) is hard, it’s going to bounce back and my catcher is going to make a good play,’” Arroyo said.
Sure enough, he was right. The ball took a good bounce for the defense, Ordonez fielded the ricochet off the backstop, spun and threw to Arroyo who was covering home. When the home plate umpire signaled the out that got Stoneman Douglas out of a bases-loaded jam, the team collectively erupted into cheers.
Arroyo stood at home plate, looking relieved, and exhaled.
We execute that every single day, but today it was like thank God it worked,” Arroyo said. “It just felt amazing. After that, I felt like I settled down and was like ‘Alright, we are winning this thing.’”
The final inning in the top of the seventh was much less eventful. After a leadoff single by St. Johns' center fielder Jordan Taylor (2022), Arroyo got a flyout, a strikeout and another flyout to close the game and solidify Stoneman Douglas as the 2022 NHSI champions.
“All week it has just been pass the baton,” Fitz-Gerald said in between teeth chatters after being dumped in Gatorade in chilly, 50-degree weather. “Picking up the next guy and pitching staff is picking up the other guy. So they’re really locked in right now and I’d say this will carry us and give us momentum going forward.
“Whenever you play for a championship in any tournament, you always want to be the one to come out on top. To do it here at the NHSI with such a great group of talent all week—16 of the top teams in the country and for us to run through it like we did was pretty impressive. I couldn’t be happier for them or my coaching staff.”