’CANES BASEBALL TURNS SEASON AROUND WITH SMART PLAY

Hurricanes pitcher Dylan Bloom delivers a pitch.

An 11-run ninth inning powered the ’Canes past their rivals to the south in the Marathon Dolphins, 15-6, on April 20. A seven-run fourth inning propelled the Hurricanes to victory at Riviera Prep, 10-9, on April 22. The ’Canes returned home for senior night on April 26 against South Dade where they lost 3-1.

A season that started 1-6 has since seen the ’Canes turning solid pitching, sound defense and strong play among seniors into a 9-10 record going into their final game of the season at Homestead on April 27. With healthy pitchers and players in a groove, the team could make a run in the upcoming district tournament. 

And it could mean a matchup against a Keys Gate team that the ’Canes haven’t beaten dating back to last season. 

“I feel like the team has finally started to do the things that the coaching staff, especially coach Doug Mientkiewicz, has been preaching to these guys to catch the ball, play sound defense, run the bases well and swing at good pitches,” said coach Joe Molinaro. “Pitchers are throwing strikes and batters are getting good, timely hits. That translates into better results from last season.”

Molinaro not only credits the players in the turnaround, but also the coaching staff composed of Mientkiewicz, Andy Putetti and Pamela Molinaro in getting the team ready each game. 

Coral Shores Kevin Mendoza connects with a Marathon pitch. BARRY GAUKEL/Keys Weekly

Production among the ’Canes five seniors, as well as underclassmen, is among the keys to the turnaround seen this season. They include pitcher and offensive power in David Jensen, who formerly played for South Dade before coming to Coral Shores, and third baseman Kevin Mendoza. Senior Jacob Senecal is consistent on the mound and swinging the bat better this season. 

In addition to pitching, Javier Gonzalez plays various infield positions and bats in the middle of the lineup. Tyler Rodriguez has played in several positions and pitching when the team needs his arm. 

“When we used Tyler we were down 8-3 against Riviera,” Molinaro said. “Jensen got a grand slam to tie it in the seventh. We then had Tyler on third and Javier on first. Doug put on a delayed steal, and the catcher threw to second. That allowed Tyler to score. 

“Tyler came in the last two innings and threw fastballs and just blew them away,” he continued. “That was the key.”

Junior first baseman Ian Anderson, junior pitcher and shortstop Dylan Bloom and sophomore catcher Steel Mientkiewicz have also played strong this year, Molinaro said. 

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Jim McCarthy is a northerner who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since his graduation from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3 years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. Behind every community is resiliency and resolve in difficult times. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim serves as President of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. “It’s a group that lives by the motto ‘Service Above Self,’” he says. “We’ve done service projects at the Tavernier nursing home, sitting down and socializing with residents. “We’ve also supplied cameras to young students exploring the Keys ecosystem.” Jim loves sports, family and time exploring underneath the water depths.