a baseball player holding a bat in a studio
A walk-off hit from the Conchs’ Steel Mientkiewicz in the bottom of the seventh inning iced a 4-3 win over Apex Friendship at the National High School Invitational tournament. MARK HEDDEN/Keys Weekly

Key West baseball spent the end of last week in Cary, North Carolina at the USA Baseball National High School Invitational tournament, playing against the top talent in the country. The Conchs got off to a slow start, losing the first two games of the tournament, but ended strong to head back to the Southernmost City on a two-game win streak.

In game one of the tourney on April 10, Key West played Harvard-Westlake, the third-ranked team in California. The Conchs lost 10-2 despite 2 hits from Steel Mientkiewicz and 1 each from Caden Pichardo, Sam Holland and Roman Garcia. The Conchs gave up an unusual 13 hits and made 3 errors, putting a win against the high-caliber Wolverines out of reach. 

The next night, the Conchs faced the No. 1-ranked team in North Carolina, Wesleyan Christian Academy, losing 9-2. The Trojans picked up 3 runs in the first inning and maintained the lead for the duration. Key West played its usual error-free defense, but stagnant bats prevented a win against Wesleyan. Nelson Ong prevented the no-hitter, connecting for a pair of Key West hits and one RBI. 

In game three, Key West’s bats woke up with 6 hits against Apex Friendship, including 2 from Pichardo and 1 each from Garcia, Ong, Holland, Mientkiewicz and Anthony Lariz. Jacob Burnham pitched a full game, striking out 7, walking 2 and giving up just 4 hits. The win over the Patriots was punctuated by a thrilling walk-off from Mientkiewicz at the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Conchs the 4-3 victory.

Game four pitted Key West against the Firebirds of Chaparral High, a top-tier team from Scottsdale, Arizona, winning 9-5. Key West was good for 8 hits, 2 each from Garcia, Mientkiewicz and Ong and 1 apiece from Lariz and Auggy Davila. Christian Koppal got the start and Kasey Kasper finished out the final 2-1/3 innings to combine for a total of 5 strikeouts, giving up just 3 hits. Key West will finish its regular season in Florida with four home games, beginning with Westminster Christian on Thursday, April 18.

Marathon started the week off at home against Palmer on April 9. The Fins’ bats were unusually stagnant, amassing just 3 hits, 1 each from Dylan Williams, Dylan Ziels and Roco Piscetello. Ziels had an RBI and Piscetello stole a base, but the Falcons managed to squeak out 4 runs to Marathon’s 1. Mason Thornton lasted 6 innings on the mound, fanning 4 and allowing just 3 hits with no walks. Ziels turned out the lights in the final frame with three up and three down, but 5 errors cost the Fins in the loss.

On April 11, the Fins found their stride against the Bulldogs of Riviera Prep. Gabe Leal and Aidan Gonzalez registered hits for Marathon, but 2 would be enough when added to 5 walks and 2 batters reaching base on Bulldog errors. Ziels pitched an entire game, striking out 9, walking 1 and giving up 3 hits in the 4-0 win. 

The following night, Marathon earned a mercy-rule win over Mater Bay Academy on the team’s senior night, defeating the Rays 12-2. The Fins took an early lead, scoring 4 in inning one, and never let up. Gabe Leal had 3 hits and 3 RBIs to lead the offensive onslaught. Ziels and Jack Chapman had 2 hits apiece with Thornton, Gonzalez, Tommy Norris and Michael Merryman contributing 1 each. Leal did the heavy lifting on the mound for Marathon, facing 23 of the Rays’ 26 batters. Piscetello took on the final 3 to close out the game. 

The Coral Shores Hurricanes traveled to Miami on April 8 to face Brito High School. The ’Canes managed 8 hits, but a 9-run rally from Brito in inning two put the game out of reach early. Campbell Lavoie and AJ Putetti had a pair of hits each, with Putetti adding a stolen base to his stats. Donovan Thiery, Maykol Bonito-Rodriguez, Zeke Myers and Mason Clark accounted for the rest of Coral Shores’ hits. Thiery, Grayden Ross and Riley O’Berry teamed up on the mound to strike out seven batters in 4-½ innings of play before the mercy rule was applied in the 14-3 loss.

Photos by BARRY GAUKEL/Keys Weekly.

Tracy McDonald
Tracy McDonald fled to the Keys from the frozen mountains of Pennsylvania hours after graduating from college and never looked back. She is a second generation coach and educator, and has taught in the public school system for over 25 years. She and her husband met at a beginning teacher meeting in 1997 and have three children born and raised in Monroe County. In her free time, McDonald loves flea markets, historical fiction and long runs in the heat.