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Baseball preview: 3 teams look for regional playoff return

Posted on Friday, March 2, 2018 at 5:00 pm

By Ken Jackson
Sports Editor

Osceola County’s 2017 high school baseball season will be a tough act to follow.

Three teams that advanced last year lost in the playoffs to teams that appeared in their state championship game.

Gateway reached the regional playoffs — thanks to a district semifinal win over Osceola — but lost to Timber Creek in the quarterfinals before the Wolves won four more times in a romp to the Class 9A state title.

Celebration, the District 8A-10 champion, and runner-up St. Cloud, both played, and lost, to eventual state runner-up Hagerty.

Heritage Christian will chase its fifth Florida Christian Conference title in the last six years.


Osceola and Gateway will likely dictate who wins District 9A-5.
News-Gazette Photo/Marty Maddock

The Kowboys return a couple of key pieces from a team that went 17-9 last season and won the Orange Belt Conference, but a string of reaching the regional semifinals or deeper four years in a row, including the 2014 state tournament semifinals, was snapped.

Seniors Markeys Tavares (catcher), Joseph Clement (outfield, and will pitch), Diego Arroyo (second base) and Jacnel Rios (pitcher) are back, and Coach Scott Birchler has assembled a cast of newcomers.

They include juniors Hamilton Martinez and Daykell Garcia (third base, pitcher), Andrew Fernandez and Derik Diaz (shortstop), Luis Nunez (outfield), Franklin Ramirez and Michael Russo (pitcher), Brett Birchler (outfield, first base), seniors Pedro Figueroa (first base), Luis Nunez (outfield/pitcher), Frankie Santaniello (third base/pitcher) and, the lone underclassman, sophomore outfielder Misael Figueroa.

That depth is what Birchler hopes can lead the Kowboys back to the postseason.

“This group has worked hard in the offseason and will lean on each other to make up for the lack of varsity returning experience,” he said. “This is a close group that has been playing together for a number of years, which should assist in the adaption to varsity.”

Osceola opened the season last week with a win over Anclote Key and a 1-0 extra-inning loss to Cypress Creek.

St. Cloud

The Bulldogs, under Coach Brian O’Dell, were 9-12 last year, but one of the nine was an 8A-10 semifinal win over East River. Depth, like senior catcher Ty Hoyle and fellow seniors Darren Friedman, Carson Roe, Diego Gonzalez and Migdiel Burgos.

“We have more that are going to be big contributors but those five will hopefully help carry the team deep into the season,” O’Dell said. “We are coming off a great fall with hopes to turn some heads this spring. We have a lot of depth all across the board and should swing the bats better than last year, which was our weakest aspect.”

The Bulldogs opened the year with a dominating win over Gateway and an 8-5 win over Lake Nona.


The Panthers graduated eight seniors from that district runner-up team.

“We will be young for the 2018 season,” GHS Coach Jim Moran said.

This club will be led by senior outfielders Emile Perez and Juan Perez. The pitching staff is led by sophomore lefthander Melvin Cotto. Newcomers Gabriel Delorbe and Joseph Roque, along with Armando Ramirez and Wyatt Pasquel, who went 2-for-4 with a home run and added three hits and three RBI respectively in a 10-2 win over Colonial on Saturday, could find a role.


The Longhorns, under second-year head Coach Hal Keene, will have to lean on a small handful of returning varsity players to build on a 10-15 2017 record.

Senior Justin David and junior Seth Howerton anchor the pitching staff, with Reece Allison, Eli Venn and Nick Evans getting turns.

Senior second baseman Gabe Bryant and corner infielder Jackson Sibbitt hit at the top of the lineup, along with sophomore Angel Allende. Junior Nate Herstich will anchor the outfield. Newcomers Garrett Simon, and Jeremiah Peralta come up from the junior varsity.

The Longhorns opened the season 4-0, including a 3-2 extra-inning win Tuesday over district foe Palm Bay Heritage.


After laying a foundation last year, Coach Chris Arago returns to try and increase the Chargers’ win total again, after going from two wins to 8-16 last year. The team returns seven from last year’s squad, including senior college signee Isaac Tayes, who will catch, pitch when needed and hit in the lineup’s production spots. Junior shortstop Carlos Delgado will anchor the infield. Brandon Almonte is at first base, Adrian Palma will move from second base to the outfield and the mound. Lorenzo Balisquide will play center field and lead off. Versatile senior Caesar Perez could play the infield, outfield or be a DH.

Righthander Victor Molina and freshmen Nicholas Wessling and Mohammed Elaraj will be in the pitching rotation.

Newcomers Mark Linder, Angle Gonzalez, Jordy Pena and Julio Soto will contribute.

“Last year we had 17 players from the whole school and no JV, which we have now,” Arago said. “We split with Gateway and St. Cloud last year and have the confidence we will continue to improve.”


The Eagles’ coaching situation has been one of turmoil the last two seasons, but Derek Petrangeli hopes to bring some stability.

“My expectations this year for us as a team is to build the relationships and academics first then worry about baseball.  It should be a privilege to play, not the first thing these kids should worry about.”

Senior twins Damian (pitching ace and third baseman) and Dylan Comas (first base, cleanup hitter) should be leading the team. At the other end of the scale are freshmen, catch Bryan Montalvo and infielder/pitchers Roberto Guerrero and Amaury Almodovar.

Other Eagle starters include Kenneth Cruz (2B), Wilner Rivera (SS/P), Fernando Perez (3B), Isaiah Govender (RF), Yariel Mendez (CF/P) and Jamal Calmont (LF).

To start the season, the bench includes outfielders Josh Diaz, Olem Fernandez and Yan Maldonado, infielder Adrian Almonte, pitcher/first baseman Luis Perez and catch Connor Beeken.


The Storm will try to repeat its district title under new Coach Eric Brink.

City of Life

Coach Chad Smith leads the Warriors, who compete in 2A District 4 and have started the season with big wins over district foes Central Florida Christian Academy, Orlando Christian Prep and Merritt Island Christian.

The team is led by senior catcher Jorge Rivera, shortstop Jeremiah Ojeda, senior center fielder Nate Lyons, freshman first baseman Mark Baumruk, eighth grade second baseman Cristian Montes and freshman outfielder/third baseman Daniel Jones.

Seniors Hayden Hale, Omar Ortiz and Trace Smith are the pitchers.


Heritage Christian

Coach Jeremy Beaver returns to lead the Eagles, who regained the FCC title after seeing a string of four championships snapped in 2016.

Among the returning players are seniors Tyler Gonzalez and Ryan Cormier, juniors Edwin Rivera, Timothy Uriate, sophomore Abdiel Resto, freshman Joseph Gonzalez and eighth grader Bryan Ramirez-Torres.

Newcomers include junior Moises Urena, sophomores Daniel Resto, Tomas Perez and Samuel Rivera, freshman Lucas Prado and seventh grader Paul Ramnarine.