Champing at the bit: Miami Dade brings plenty of weapons to World Series
Mandy Alvarez spent his freshman year at Florida International University and just didn’t fit in.
But the sophomore third baseman has made his mark with Miami Dade College, leading the Sharks to a Gulf District championship and a spot in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
Alvarez was the Gulf District MVP and this season hit .377, striking out only 14 times in 146 at-bats.
Miami Dade coach Danny Price said Alvarez had a rough start, but has been a key part of Miami Dade’s success.
“Mandy plays extremely hard,” Price said. “He’s a gamer. I think that any team that gets to this tournament has gamers, more than one gamer, but Mandy is an exceptional player.
“He’s come on strong, particularly defensively for us, but also offensively. He’s really blossomed into a great baseball player as the season has gone on.”
Speedster Darren Seferina is the other offensive weapon for the Sharks. Seferina’s 32 stolen bases are second only to Spartanburg’s Zach Shields among players in the JUCO World Series.
Serefina also leads Miami Dade in average (.389), triples (5), hits (74) and runs (49).
“He’s a really a good player,” Price said. “For him, as the season has gone on he’s blossomed more and more and more. I think with a lot of these guys, but with Darren and Mandy particularly, you get them when they’re so young, but they turn into legitimate ballplayers as the season progresses. But Darren’s speed, coaches can’t mess up speed. It’s something you know they have.”
Miami Dade has benefitted from three starting pitchers.
Left-handers Jonathan Bermudez and Kyle Carter have been a good 1-2 combination for the Sharks with matching 7-1 records.
Bermudez leads the Sharks with 76 strikeouts, averaging 9.59 strikeouts per nine innings. The 6-foot-1, 182-pound freshman has also pitched two complete games this season, compiling 71 1/3 innings.
Carter, who serves as the designated hitter when he’s not pitching, leads starting pitchers with a 2.74 ERA, striking out 62 batters over 69 innings.
At the plate, the 6-foot, 188-pound sophomore is second on the team with a .382 average and 20 RBI.
Assistant coach Jim Mansilla said Marcus Barrios, the Sharks’ innings leader, has struggled at times this season but came on strong at the end.
“He threw a no-hitter earlier this year and we thought he was going to be our number one guy at some point,” Mansilla said. “He went through a period where he was just OK, and then late in the season he became one of the main reasons we’re here in the tournament.”
The 6-foot, 200-pound right-hander totaled 76 innings this season, striking out 70 and walking only 20. He also compiled a 6-2 record with a 3.55 ERA.
Miami Dade has won 21 of its past 23 games and hit .337 as a team.
Price said the Sharks are a defensive-focused team, and praised the groups family-like atmosphere.
“They’re a very close group and I think we’ve kind of become attached,” Price said. “They’re an extension of family and they really started to grow closer as we’ve gotten better this season.
“I think the reason this group has been as close as they have for as long as they have is they hit that point where people quit caring who did what and just did everything as a team.
“This wasn’t the group we had last year where we had five or six guys get drafted. We’re a good group, don’t get me wrong, but this is a much more lunch-box, blue-collar type of team.
“They want to be a team and they don’t want to see the season end. They didn’t just luck up and get here. They’re going to fight.”
Price, who scouted in Grand Junction while coaching at Florida International University, said he has fond memories of Grand Junction, and he’s excited to share them with his players.
“I’ve been out here eight, 10, 12 times as a coach and it’s very clear to me that this is not just a game, it’s very much an event,” Price said. “It’s always been on my bucket list just to come back here and enjoy this event. To come back as a coach is beyond my wildest dreams. I mean, I saw Kirby Puckett play on this field and I remember it like it was yesterday.
“I’ve stepped on Wrigley Field, and stepping on Suplizio Field will be right there with that.”