PORT ST. LUCIE — They've been best friends for years — and rivals on the baseball diamond.
And now, it's great for Alonso seniors Tyler Ding and Tito Martinez to be going out together.
"We're like brothers," Ding said.
Said Martinez: "We've been through it all. We've been in trouble together. We have the same classes every year. I've told Tyler if he could be my (college) roommate, he'd be my favorite roommate, my second baseman, my best friend."
Ding, the Ravens' starting second baseman and No. 2 hitter, and Martinez, the team's leadoff hitter and shortstop, have been double-play partners for the past two seasons as well as the offense's table setters.
And they are the main reasons the Ravens are playing for their second straight Class 6A state title this weekend in Port St. Lucie. Alonso (25-5) can become just the second Hillsborough County team to win back-to-back state titles. (Tampa Catholic won in 1973-74.)
"We're pretty proud right now, but we don't feel like the job is done," Martinez said. "I feel like we prepared for one thing our whole season, and that's winning state. We're really close. It's in our reach."
Ding and Martinez first played with each other at age 8 on the Town 'N Country youth team. But when Martinez went to play for the Wellswood Little League, they became rivals. They were reunited three years ago at Alonso.
"We always wanted to beat each other," Martinez said. "We hated each other on the field. When we came to Alonso, it was like, 'Wow this kid is on my team. That's pretty awesome.' " We didn't have to worry about getting each other out or catching them stealing. Now it's great to know you have somebody that great standing right beside you."
On the field, they're the cornerstones of one of the county's best defensive infields — a middle infield combination that covers plenty of ground and turns double plays with ease. Offensively, Martinez said they're the catalysts.
"If we both get on, it can be a deadly inning," he said.
"They had to come in and fill big shoes for Chris Freshcorn and Sherman Johnson (former all-county players), and they've done more than that," Alonso coach Landy Faedo said. "They've really solidified our defense up the middle. Teams that are successful are strong up the middle. And fortunately, we've been strong with those guys. They're 1-2 in our lineup, short and second."
Off the field, Ding and Martinez are just as inseparable. They do everything together.
"Basketball, beach, girls," Martinez said.
"You can say we're a deadly combo," Ding said with a laugh.
Eduardo A. Encina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org