When a team achieves something that's never been done in the history of Florida baseball, and then is favored to add to that already impressive feat, it's hard not to rank that team No. 1 in the country.
Such is the case for the Archbishop McCarthy Mavericks, who ended the 2013 with their fourth straight state championship - something that had not happened in 96 years of Florida high school baseball history, according to Mavericks coach Rich Bielski.
A fifth-straight state title, however, is a distinct possibility considering that Bielski has eight returning starters, including three pitchers who could be taken in the Major League Baseball Draft in June.
Therefore, the Mavericks begin the season ranked No. 1 in the MaxPreps 2014 Xcellent 25 Preseason National Baseball Rankings. See the Top 10 teams landing page here
"All starting pitchers and our closer are returning," said Bielski when describing his 2014 squad. "Our starting infield and two outfielders return and they all play great defense."
The strength of the Maverick team is undoubtedly its pitching staff, which includes Brian Gonzalez, Andres Nunez and Aaron Soto. All three earned All-County honors by the Miami Herald last year, all three have committed to a Division I college and all three could be drafted. Gonzalez leads the way with an 11-0 mark from last year while Nunez was 7-2 and Soto was 4-0. All three had ERAs of less than 2.00.
Archbishop McCarthy will need a strong performance from its pitching staff all season long as it drops down to a very competitive Class 5A this season. This means that the Mavericks will face American Heritage, a 5A powerhouse, at least twice this season and will likely have to get past the likes of the Patriots or talented teams from Mosley and Jesuit (Tampa).
Gonzalez plays at first base when not pitching while Soto plays in the outfield. Both showed power at the plate last season, hitting four home runs apiece. Other infielders include Eddie Silva at shortstop, Blade Bielski at second base and Alex Rodriguez at third base.
Joining Soto in the outfield is Michael Giggliotti while newcomer Dylan Bautista will likely fill the open spot.
Like the pitching trio, Giggliotti, Silva and catcher Ryan Sinzenich have all committed to Division I schools. Gonzalez has committed to Miami while Nunez and Silva are headed to Florida International. Soto has committed to Tennessee while Giggliotti will play for Lipscomb and Sinzenich will go to Florida Tech.
The Mavericks are off to a strong start this season, posting four straight shutouts to open the year before losing to Coral Gables 8-3 last week.