Miami Herald

Stoneman Douglas baseball will try for fourth straight state championsh­ip

- BY ANDRE FERNANDEZ afernandez@miamiheral­ For complete team-by-team outlooks, go to the online version of this article at www.miamiheral­ sports/high-school

The premier baseball dynasty in the state of Florida and the nation doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon.

Stoneman Douglas enters the 2024 season looking to become only the second team in Florida history to win four consecutiv­e state championsh­ips, tying Archbishop McCarthy.

The Eagles also are aiming to extend to four their record for being declared the top team in the nation.

Douglas figures to be ranked right at the top again this season with a roster that will have 17 college signees, including 12 to Division I programs.

“With a blend of pitching, defense and offense we should be in the mix at the end,” Douglas coach Todd Fitz-Gerald said. “Lots of talent on paper. If these guys gel together we will be tough to beat.”

Although the Eagles graduated workhorse pitcher Christian Rodriguez, a Florida signee, they remain replete with talented arms and a perfect balance of five righties and five lefties.

Senior righthande­r Jayden Dubanaweic­z, a Florida signee who went 11-0 with a 1.17 ERA last season, leads the group and has an 88-91 mph fastball and a wipeout slider. UCF signee Gavin Gargiulo, a senior, has a three-pitch mix and can also touch 90-91 on his fastball.

Adding to the Eagles’ depth on the mound are sophomore and University of Miami commit Gio Rojas and senior and Barry University commit James Smith, as well as seniors Brayden Mcluskey (Hillsborou­gh CC commit) and Dave Goldapper (Eastern Florida State commit).

Douglas returns six starters from a loaded lineup, which averaged 8.6 runs during its 29-0 season last year.

Fitz-Gerald’s son, Devin, is an NC State signee and a potential draft pick this summer. The senior shortstop is a switch hitter and has shown power from both sides of the plate.

Senior third baseman Rylan Lujo, a Dayton signee, also adds power to the

lineup and excellent defensive tools.

Senior and UCF signee Alex Rodriguez has shown great ability tracking balls in the outfield with the speed that serves him well on the basepaths.

First baseman Niko Benestad, a senior and USF signee, was one of the most clutch hitters for the Eagles last season and should bring power in the heart of their lineup again this year.

Juniors Bennett Gary (UM commit), and Nick Diaz (Georgia commit) add depth to the outfield while junior catcher Drew Freeman (Louisville commit) and seniors Ethan Askin (Eastern Florida State commit) and Micky Case (Embry-Riddle commit) will all see time behind the plate.


American Heritage is vying to repeat as state champion for the first time in school history. One look at the Patriots’ pitching staff produces confidence that just might happen.

American Heritage returns one of the toughest 1-2 punches at the top of its rotation with righty Talan Holiday and lefty Spencer Krasner.

Holiday, the Miami Herald’s 5A-2A Pitcher of the Year last season, is a North Carolina commit and a 2025 pro prospect. Krasner is one of the top arms of the Class of 2026 and is already committed to Virginia. Senior Antonio TurcoRivas, an NYU commit, should add depth to the pitching staff as well.

A lineup led by senior outfielder Lucas Ramirez, the son of former major league star Manny Ramirez and a Tennessee commit, and junior infielders RJ Machado, Zach Wilson and Chris Levy will try to balance the Patriots’ roster.


If anyone is a threat to Douglas’ reign at the top in Class 7A, it’s likely the team that the Eagles have dispatched from the playoffs each of the past two seasons in the regional semifinals.

Taravella, coming off a 16-8 season, might have the depth and balance to truly contend with Douglas in the hopes of winning the school’s first state championsh­ip.

Senior pitchers Anthony Quigley, EJ Burns and Javi Miranda headline a group who can top 90 mph.

Junior third baseman/ pitcher Johnny Lopez rounds out the group and brings some pop to the Taravella lineup.

Taravella coach Joe Giummule needs 16 wins to reach 300 coaching victories.


A year after being denied a state championsh­ip threepeat in the Class 4A final, North Broward Prep has reloaded in the hopes of starting a new title run.

The Eagles have a seniorheav­y squad that should be among the deepest in the state on the mound and at the plate.

UCF commit Mateo Gray and Appalachia­n State commit Riley Luft each have been pivotal to the Eagles advancing to the state tournament the past three seasons.

The two should make up for the loss of Ryan McPherson, a Mississipp­i State commit who will not pitch this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Catcher TJ Gramesty, an FAU commit, junior Kiernan O’Neill, a UCF commit, and senior outfielder AJ Cutler, a Union College (N.Y.) signee, add depth to the Eagles’ lineup.

 ?? CHRIS TILLEY ?? Starting pitcher Spencer Krasner is half of a powerful 1-2 punch on the mound for American Heritage.
CHRIS TILLEY Starting pitcher Spencer Krasner is half of a powerful 1-2 punch on the mound for American Heritage.

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