Former Miami Dade College coach Danny Price was in the stands this past weekend.
Kevin Long, his former MDC pitching coach, was there, too. Steve Hertz, yet another ex-MDC coach, was on the phone, getting updates from Price and Long.
All that support must have helped because the MDC Sharks — now coached by Adrian Morales — won the state junior college title with a 10-5 victory over Santa Fe on Sunday in Lakeland.
Next stop: the JUCO World Series, set for May 29 through June 6 in Grand Junction, Colorado.
“What a tremendous tournament,” Long said of the state title won by MDC. “I was so excited and happy to watch them win.”
Price, who retired from coaching after the 2019 season, said it’s more stressful to be a fan.
“But it was still a wonderful experience,” Price said. “It was unbelievable — wow, so proud.”
This will be MDC’s first trip to nationals since they finished second in the 2014 tournament under Price.
Morales, a former Price assistant and an ex-MDC player, has never been to nationals. But he won two College World Series titles while playing for the South Carolina Gamecocks as their starting third baseman in 2010 and 2011.
MDC (36-17) won this year’s Southern Conference title with a 14-7 record, qualifying for state.
The Sharks are led by second baseman Erick Orbeta, who was named first-team All-State and the MVP of the state tournament. Outfielder David Crawford made second-team All-State.
In addition, four players made the state’s all-tournament team: Crawford and fellow outfielder Jose Bock, third baseman Sujel Arias and pitcher Jose Pichardo.
MDC is going to nationals despite suffering through a rash of injuries. Outfielder Ian Jenkins is out for the year due to a knee injury. Outfielder Christopher Patterson — a Bethune-Cookman recruit — has been out since March 20 due to a hamstring injury. Outfielder Bryan Sanjuro has been in and out all season due to a hand injury.
The good news for MDC is that shortstop Henry Wallen — a Miami Hurricanes recruit who has been out since Feb. 24 due to a quadriceps injury — is expected back for nationals. And pitcher Nolan Santos — a Bethune-Cookman recruit who had been out since March 20 due to a broken hand — returned this past weekend.
Morales said his players can use this 20-day break between winning state and starting nationals.
“We should be getting some guys back,” Morales said. “But, either way, we’re going to continue to play to our strengths – pitching, defense and timely hitting. That’s who we’ve been for the past six weeks.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ FIU’s women’s tennis team qualified for the NCAA Tournament last week and finished its season with a 12-2 record after a 4-0 loss to Miami. FIU’s Kamila Umarova split sets with Miami’s national champion, Estela Perez-Somarriba, in a match that was not finished.
FIU won three opening sets and had set point in a fourth before Miami rallied. FIU coach Katarina Petrovic said all her players are expected back next year with the exception of No. 2 singles standout Marina Alcaide, who will be a graduate transfer.
“We’re going to be really successful the next few years,” Petrovic said. “I wish we didn’t have to play Miami in that first NCAA Tournament match, but we competed hard for over three hours.”
▪ FIU’s baseball team, which scored a 10-5 upset win over 14th-ranked Louisiana Tech on Friday, is 18-28 overall this season, including 9-17 in league play. The Panthers, who have not yet qualified for the Conference USA tournament, have four games left in the regular season — at Middle Tennessee this weekend and at Vanderbilt (ranked second in the. nation by D1Baseball.com) next Tuesday.
▪ Both of Barry University’s tennis teams are headed to nationals at Surprise, Arizona, May 18-21. The women’s team (12-0) is ranked second in the nation. The men’s team (10-0) is also ranked second.