By Chris Fish
MELBOURNE -- It took more than 40 years for Melbourne Central Catholic's baseball team to return to the state championship game, but its members were determined to leave a lasting impression once they did.
On Tuesday, May 21, the Hustlers (23-5) defeated defending 3A state champion Jacksonville Providence 2-1 for the coveted title at the Jet Blue Park in Fort Myers.
"Every player who dressed (in uniform) deserves to be recognized," said Tom Dooley, Melbourne Catholic head coach. "It was a great team effort all season. Players have to buy into a team concept; they have to understand their role, accept (it) and then perform their role."
The championship for the Hustlers, who had not been in the final four since 1994, is the program's first.
"This ball club had a great mix of youth and experience," Coach Dooley said. "We played consistent baseball for much of the season. High school baseball is a game truly predicated on the mental and emotional side. If your team believes and really buys in, it is amazing what the results can be."
Coach Dooley said the team defeating First Academy in Orlando on the road during the quarter finals was what really gave the team confidence.
"We had some talent, but that win really made us believe that we have a chance for a big accomplishment," he said. "I thought we were a team that just played with great composure, mental toughness, and we truly got some breaks along the way that we managed to take advantage of. Much credit goes to our coaching staff: Terry Henderson, Ohmed Danesh and Neville Maycock."
Coach Dooley praised his players for their performances during the season and the big game.
"AJ Smith was dominate on the mound, the Capra Brothers and Ian Fox played excellent defense and Vinny Capra drove in both runs in the title game," he said. "We had four freshmen contribute in that championship game: Will Erdman drove in the winning run in the semis, and he scored the winning run in the championship; Austin Nickle scored the winning run in the semis and made a great diving catch in the championship game; Colman LaRoche reached base three times in the championship; while Mark Potter threw 1 2/3 of relief to earn the win the championship."
Coach Dooley also praised the performance of catcher Christian Vargas, second pitcher Alex Carpenter and a special recognition for seniors Nick Capra, Ian Fox, Cam Lierman and AJ Smith.
Coach Dooley said he hopes to continue the team's success into next season.
"We are in the character development game, as much as the player development game," he said. "We have to do things as a team. We have to play with our hearts and mind first. The situation is not 'Will we be as good as we want,' but 'Will we be as good as we should be?' That means we maximize our potential."