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PORT ST. LUCIE — Asked if Alonso senior Jose Fernandez has ever hit a winning home run in his baseball career, he shrugged coyly.
“Maybe Little League?” he said with little conviction.
“That still counts,” fellow Ravens senior Matt Brandy said. “Little League counts.”
Both seniors would agree, however, that nothing could compare to the moment when Fernandez’s eleventh-hour two-run homer saved Alonso’s season and its quest for a second Class 6A state title in three years.
Trailing by a run and down to their last three outs, Fernandez’s home run capped the Ravens’ seventh-inning comeback to propel Alonso to a 7-5 victory over Lake Worth Park Vista on Monday night at Digital Domain Park.
“We talked about it earlier in the day,” Alonso coach Landy Faedo said. “If someone can score seven against us, we can score eight. So just go out there and play all 21 outs.”
And there was no doubt about one more thing: the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Fernandez, more known for his 98 mph fastball than his bat, had never been in such a hurry to get around the bases.
“I’ve never run that fast,” said Fernandez, shaking his head.
The Ravens (22-5) face Deltona (23-8) in tonight’s final.
Monday’s win evoked memories of the finest moment in Alonso’s baseball history, a similar late-inning rally here two years ago that sealed the school’s first state title. Trailing by a run, the Ravens scored two runs in the sixth to beat Miami Columbus 4-3.
“We know how that feels and we’re good at it,” Fernandez said. “We’re going to fight for it. We’re never going to give up until the last out.”
While Fernandez struggled on the mound against what several Ravens called the best hitting team they’ve ever faced, Brandy and Juan Bracamonte kept Alonso in the game. The top hitters in the Ravens lineup were a combined 7-for-8 — Alonso had just 10 hits total — and served as table setters for the winning rally.
Down 5-4, Brandy found the left-center gap for a leadoff double, and Bracamonte followed by lining a double down the third-base line, scoring Brandy. Bracamonte moved to third on a wild pitch, putting the go-ahead run 90 feet away with one out.
Fernandez then took a first-pitch inside fastball about 380 feet over the leftfield fence.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” said Fernandez, who expected to see a first-pitch breaking ball. “I see it there and I swing. …I was trying to get a hit. I wasn’t trying to hit it out. I knew if we got one more run it would be over.”
Park Vista (22-8) scored five runs and tallied 10 hits, both season highs against Fernandez, one of the nation’s top pitching prospect who will likely be a first-round pick in next month’s MLB first-year player draft.
Though he labored on the mound, Fernandez (13-1) still finished with his ninth complete-game win of the season, sending the Cobras down in order in the bottom of the seventh.
“We had heard so much about him,” Park Vista coach Larry Greenstein said. “And what he brought to the table — from what we heard — was very accurate.”