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Five errors beget Wellington ouster

SOUTH MIAMI 6, WELLINGTON 4: Yet another nationally ranked team _ this time it's No. 3 _ goes down.

Memo to next year's state tournament teams: Leave your gaudy national ranking at home.

Miami Gulliver Prep (No. 10), Zephyrhills (No. 8) and Jacksonville Bishop Kenny (No. 2) brought a lofty ranking from Baseball America to Legends Field earlier this week. All went home a little embarrassed.

Friday, it was West Palm Beach Wellington's turn. The Wolverines, ranked No. 3 and the defending Class 6A champions, were bounced by non-descript, 10-loss South Miami 6-4.

Wellington (30-2) can only blame itself. It committed five errors that led to three unearned runs. On offense, a team that had won its regional games 15-1, 11-1 and 12-2 managed just six hits.

"It's disappointing to have such a great year and play our worst game at states," Wellington shortstop Bryan Zech said.

"I don't think we've ever made four errors," Wellington coach Scott Benedict said when asked if his team had ever committed five errors.

South Miami (22-10) set the tone immediately, jumping to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first off senior left-hander Sean Burnett, who entered the game 10-0 with a 0.81 ERA. A triple by switch-hitting shortstop Kenny Perez (3-for-4, three runs) was the key play.

"We had no pressure coming into this game," Perez said. "We like to surprise people."

Wellington undermined itself in the fourth and fifth as South Miami scored three times, all unearned, to stretch the lead to 6-1. Wellington catcher Rob Orton, who hadn't committed an error all season, made two in the fifth inning.

"(Wellington) looked a little tight in pregame," South Miami coach Hector Fernandez said. "They had a lot of pressure to produce."

Wellington rallied for three in the fifth. However, reliever Howard Cuervo, a native of Cuba who came to the United States last year, used an Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez-style delivery to close the door.

Today against Orlando Colonial, South Miami will attempt to become the first public school from Dade County to win a state title since 1985.

"They want to bring that title back to Miami," Fernandez said.