They did it.
They freakin' did it!
After 78 long years, one of the most venerable teams in the nation won their first title as the Jefferson Dragons defeated the Merritt Island Mustangs 6-5 in nine innings on Thursday night to claim the 6A State Championship.
While Jefferson will long be known as the school attended by MLB veterans Dave Magadan, Fred McGriff, Tino Martinez and Luis Gonzalez, the names Robby Martin, AJ Mathis, Ty Evans and Oscar Galvez will be the ones that will be remembered forever.
Especially Galvez, who's walk-off single in the 9th scored Evans from 2nd and sent the Dragons into the history books.
Our buddies from 813preps.com did a fantastic job writing the recap from this game -- which you can read BELOW -- so I just wanted to write about some of the guys individually and what I've seen them do over the years, and especially the last two days.
I've been in a lot of pain the last day or so after getting my wisdom teeth pulled, but these boys made that pain disappear for about twenty minutes and I'm glad to tell you a little bit more about them :
- AJ Mathis CF - you want to talk about a spark? A catalyst? Well, AJ is your guy. When he gets on base, the Dragons win, clear and simple. He got on base five times in the final two games, chipped in a key RBI single in the Championship game and played a solid center field to boot. Florida State is getting a good one with Mathis, no doubt about it.
- Robby Martin RF/P - it doesn't end there for the Seminoles as they also welcome in an absolute stud in Robby Martin...... or they should, if the MLB Draft doesn't come calling in the next few days. I've known Robby for over 10 years coaching against him in travel ball and he was always a threat, be it on the mound or at the plate. He has always been a hard-working, respectful young man and to see him grow into the player he is today is an honor. His home run in the 1st set the tone for the Dragons, and after Marc DeGusipe pitched his tail off for 4+ innings, Robby came on and finished the job to pick up the W.
- Charlie Welch C - to see this guy control the game is a beautiful thing to watch. I had the fortunate opportunity to coach Charlie about 4-5 years ago and I was just so impressed to see how he goes about his business. He never gives an at-bat away, takes pride in working with his pitchers and is like another coach on the field. He solidified the backstop position at Jefferson and now he's a State Champion!
- Marc DeGusipe P/1B - when you get to the State Finals, you need more than one horse to ride you to the promised land. After Michael Dominguez' masterful performance against Clay on Wednesday, DeGusipe took the ball and did exactly what he was supposed to do in keeping the Dragons in the game with a gutty performance on the mound. This game may have never even happened if DeGusipe's big hit against Robinson in the District Semifinals didn't fall just beyond the reach of the center fielder's grasp. You have to win a lot of close games en route to being the last team standing, and when Jefferson needed to answer the bell, a lot of times Marc was the man.
- Jake Coleman LF - what can you say about Jake Coleman? This is a kid that does his talking on the field. I'll always remember his steal of 3rd in that game against Robinson when no one was looking. That play kept the Dragons season alive. Whether it's taking a walk, moving the runner over or taking the extra base, Jake was always that guy doing the right thing at the right time. A true team player.
- Ty Evans 3B - there's guys you come across when you're coaching and they become more than just one of your players, they become part of your family. I've known Ty since he was five years old and he is certainly one of those people. Ty was on the first team I ever coached back in 2008 and we've been really close ever since. It's not just him, but his parents Jay and Christie, his sisters Jae Bug and Joce, EVEN Ty's grandparents are like an extended family to me. Ty Man had a rough year dealing with injuries and a BS suspension (yeah I said it) that cost him games leading up to this week, but that didn't deter him from doing whatever it took to help his team win. He scored the tying run in the 5th and the winning run in the 9th and he proved that there's more to winning than just throwing, fielding and hitting the ball. His effort, baserunning and leadership is difficult to quantify and he is a huge reason why the Dragons were the last team standing in Class 6A.
- Sal Vega SS - a key move to Jefferson's season was to give the reigns to Vega at shortstop, and MAN did it pay off. It was Sal's big HR in the semifinals against Clay that catapulted the Dragons to victory on Wednesday. He had the game-tying base hit on Thursday in the 5th, and played a fantastic shortstop to steady that Dragons infield D. To watch this kid mature this season has been tremendous. Jefferson will lose a ton of seniors, but they're in a real good spot up the middle with Sal at short and this guy and second base.......
- Oscar Galvez 2B - will someone go hose this kid off? He's on FIRE! You look at his performance in the semis, going 4 for 4, and say, "Good job kid! Hell of a game!" And then you see what he did in the finals and you just shake your head. Looking like Derek Jeter using that right side of the field as his domain, Galvez had another three hits including the game-winner. His sheer athleticism and determination were big reasons why Jefferson was as successful as they were this year. I was just so happy to see this young man come up big when the lights were shining the brightest. It couldn't happen to a better kid.
- Jack Rodriguez 1B - speaking of great kids, they don't come much better than my dude Jack Rodriguez. A kid that I started coaching at 12 years old. He, like Ty Evans, have become more than just one of my former players. Whether it's watching WWE, discussing things like girls or school, or just plain shooting the breeze, Jack is one of my favorite people on this planet. His parents Kelly and Ray are like older siblings to me and I could not be more grateful to have them in my life. Whether it was to get a bunt down, put the ball in play, or give his team some tough innings on the mound, Jack was always willing to do whatever it took to put the team first and help them win. He always calls me "bird", but it's Jack and the Dragons that were flying high on Thursday night.
- I have to give a shoutout to Michael Dominguez (who threw a masterful semifinal game against Clay), Miguel Denson, Ian Quelle, Jaiden Duarte, Andrew Mann, Jordan Perez and the rest of the Dragons on a fantastic year. You guys were an awesome group and it was really nice to see you guys pull for one another, especially when things got rough.
- Last but not least, a big tip of the hat to the Jefferson coaching staff. Coach FontelaS (all 47 of you), Coach Maggio, Coach Scaglione, Coach Mann and the rest of the crew, you've done something no other team in the HISTORY of Jefferson baseball has been able to do. It's never an easy thing dealing with a bunch of teenagers, but you guys battled and persevered and came out on top. On a personal note, you all have ALWAYS been so nice, welcoming and supportive of what I do covering HS baseball and I could never thank you enough for that. Every time I walk through that gate, I feel like I'm part of the family and I'm eternally grateful for that.
OK, it's 5am and I REALLY need to get some shut eye. What a tremendous win, not just for Jefferson High School, but for the entire 813.
Congratulations Dragons, this win will last a lifetime!