Todd Vaughan has coached baseball at Clearwater Central Catholic for 25 years and has seen all kinds of teams: senior-dominated teams, power teams, overachievers and some underachievers.
And then there is the 2013 version.
“These guys are a bunch of little mighty-mites,” Vaughan said.
CCC isn’t likely to intimidate West Palm Beach King’s Academy when it steps off the bus for Friday’s Class 3A region final. But taking the Marauders lightly is a mistake.
They are 25-4. They had a 16-game win streak after losing their season opener Lakewood. They won the Class 3A, District 9 championship and have outscored two region opponents 16-2.
A win over King’s Academy would put the Marauders in the Class 3A state tournament for the first time since 2007, when they won Vaughan’s second state championship. The first came in 2002.
“We’re not the biggest team,” senior centerfielder Johnny Karaphillis said. “We’re probably the smallest team out there right now. But we can play small ball, bunt guys over, stuff like that.
“We play really good defense, we have good pitching and we hit the ball when we need to. Everyone in our lineup can do something. And we feed off each other. Confidence is contagious with us.”
Karaphillis has been a spark plug for CCC this season. He has been pesky at the plate in the leadoff spot, batting .430 in the regular season and continuing to hit in the postseason.
Derek Gibree (.420), Andrew Mink (.378), Benny Mendizabal (.378) and Brenden Overton (.345, 31 RBIs, five home runs) have also been hitting all season.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is junior pitcher/infielder David Paul, who emerged as the ace this season. He was 8-0 with a 1.74 ERA in the regular season then allowed only one run each to Sarasota Cardinal Mooney and Calvary Christian in region play.
“This year I needed him to step up and be an ace,” Vaughan said. “I needed him to have that demeanor that a senior would have. He’s done that from Day One. He does all the work; he does more than all the work.”
Against King’s Academy, CCC will need Paul’s bat. The Marauders will likely throw Michael Del Monte today. He has been almost as consistent as Paul, with a 6-0 record and a 2.44 ERA.
If this season’s pattern continues, the Marauders shouldn’t worry. After the 16-game win streak — snapped by a very good East Lake team — they lost two of six games, to Calvary Christian and Northside Christian.
But since a walkoff win over Berkeley Prep on April 17, CCC has won five straight.
“That Berkeley game jump-started us,” Karaphillis said.
And it has the Marauders thinking a state championship is within reach.
“If they were able to do that they would be totally different than the teams we’ve had do that,” Vaughan said. “They are not like the ’02 team, which was senior-dominated. The ’07 team was just a physically big, overpowering type team. This is a bunch of little guys who fight hard.”
Class 3A region final
Who: Clearwater Central Catholic (25-4) at West Palm Beach King’s Academy (17-12)
When: 4 p.m.
At Stake: A berth in the Class 3A state semifinal in Fort Myers against the Jacksonville Providence-Daytona Beach Father Lopez winner