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St. Thomas Aquinas baseball hands Stoneman Douglas another loss

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FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA – St. Thomas Aquinas is making a statement, while Marjory Stoneman Douglas is looking for answers.

In an energized atmosphere on Wednesday night, Zack Malvasio crushed a three-run home run and Anthony Ciscar threw five strong innings as the Raiders upset Stoneman Douglas, 7-3.

St. Thomas (11-3) has won five in a row, and showed the rest of Class 6A that it is emerging as a state contender.

For Stoneman Douglas (9-2), ranked second in the SBLive Sports Florida Top 25 ranking, the loss was its second in three games.

St. Thomas Aquinas baseball pitcher Anthony Ciscar. 3/20/2024.

St. Thomas starting pitcher Anthony Ciscar, a University of Miami commit, who gave up one run in five innings of work, helping the Raiders win their fifth straight game, while handing Majory Stoneman Douglas its second loss in its last three games.

“For our program, it’s a big win,” St. Thomas coach Joey Wardlow said. “It kind of keeps us rolling a little bit. We don’t look ahead. One of things we’ve talked about since January is, the most important game is the next game. This is obviously a really big game against a very good team.”

Nationally-ranked Stoneman Douglas had its streak of 59-straight games snapped last Saturday with a 5-4 loss against Lincoln Tallahassee.

The Eagles recovered from that setback by routing Coral Glades, 11-1, on Tuesday.

But one Wednesday, it was St. Thomas that jumped out to a early lead, on Malvasio’s three-run homer to center. The Raiders never looked back.

“At some point, people have to learn and understand that this is not the same team as years past,” Stoneman Douglas coach Todd Fitz-Gerald said. “We’ve got a lot of new guys and a lot of young guys playing.

“We’re banged up. Our shortstop is out. Our left fielder is out. We’ve got 10th graders on the field. It’s not a senior-heavy team. It’s a talented team, but it’s not a senior-heavy team. We’ve got some things to figure out.”

Shortstop Devin Fitz-Gerald isn’t at 100 percent, and on Wednesday the North Carolina state commit, went 2-for-4 with a double as the designated hitter. And outfielder Bennett Gary, committed to Miami, is out.

“I told you guys a couple of weeks ago, we’re not the No. 1 team in the country,” Todd Fitz-Gerald said. “I know what the No. 1 team in the country looks like. We’re going to be a state contender, and that’s our goal, to be a state champion. But it’s going to take us some time, and we may drop a few more down the way until we figure out who are. Right now, I don’t think we know who we are.”

The Eagles have won three straight state and national titles, and their focus is to claim another Class 7A state crown.

“I just told them that I wasn’t mad at them,” the Eagles coach said. “I’m disappointed in the fact they allowed the atmosphere and the things they couldn’t control to dictate how they played tonight. They let their youth -- not the older guys so much -- but their youth exposed them a little bit. And the only thing you can do is learn from it is get better from it, and we will, and we’ll go back to work, and we’ve got to find the right nine guys that are going to run through a wall for us. Once we do that, we’ll be off and running.”

Among the positives for Douglas is junior lefty Breylynn Courtney struck out three in 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.

The night, however, belonged to Ciscar, Malvasio (who had four RBIs) and St. Thomas. Joshua Jennings also drove in two runs.

“We’re a young team,” said Ciscar, who gave up one run and struck out five in five innings. “We’ve got a lot of great guys coming back next year. We’ve got a lot of potential. We’ve got guys on the bench I trust to come in and make a play if they need to. We’ve got 30 guys and I trust every single one of the 30.”

In relief, Quinn O’Keefe finished off the sixth and seventh innings to close out the win. Stoneman Douglas rallied for two runs in the seventh, with Fitz-Gerald delivering a double off the wall in center.

“We’re a great team,” Ciscar said. “We compete, and we’re not scared of who we face. We’re going to come out there, ready to go.”

For Douglas, the schedule is challenging with Archbishop McCarthy, Monsignor Pace and Cardinal Gibbons up next.

“It don’t get easier for Coach Fitz and the Crew,” Fitz-Gerald said. “But I don’t want it easy. If you play good people, you can’t do anything but learn how to compete and get better. We’ll be there in the end. Trust me.”