SUNDAY, May 28, 2017

Reaching state's Final Four isn't Greek to these Sailors

Source: Published by Herald-Tribune - Doug Fernandes


SARASOTA - This year’s Sarasota High baseball team has synergism. That famous quote from the noted hardball sage Aristotle provides a Twitter-friendly definition.


“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”


That’s this Sailor club, two victories from what would be the seventh state championship in the glorious coaching career of Clyde Metcalf.


He loved all the guys on those six-pack of title teams. When players like Greg Blosser, J.R. Showalter, Ray Suplee, Ron Scott, Casey Kelly, Doug Million, Matt Drews, Bobby Seay and Joey Terdoslavich are helping you look really, really good, they’re bound to occupy a permanent warm spot in any crusty coach’s heart.


But Metcalf’s no different from any skipper who holds particularly dear the little engine that could, which is exactly what this Sailor team is turning out to be.


“It’s been tremendously rewarding and been among the funnest years, the most enjoyable I’ve had,” Metcalf said.


At first glance, the parts of this Sailor squad lack any substantial “wow factor.” Its record, 23-9, could belong to any district runner-up. The Sailors have scored 142 runs while allowing 88, which means they’ve won by an average score of 4.4 to 2.7.


Sarasota has one hitter, shortstop Alex Arauz, batting north of .400. Just three others eclipse .300. John Mucci leads Sailor hitters with two home runs and 21 RBI. Brooks Larson leads Sailor pitchers with nine victories.


Just for context, Showalter knocked in 44 runs for the ’87 champion Sailors. Suplee hit .591 for the ’89 title team, with 55 hits and 53 runs scored.


On the ’93 title squad, Doug Million and Matt Drews combined for 23 victories. The next season, when the Sailors were state and national champs, Million and Bobby Seay combined for 22 wins. Kelly went 11-0 while Terdoslavich hit five homers and drove in 31 on the ’07 title team, the last Sarasota edition to win it.


That was then. This is now, and Metcalf’s pretty proud of it.


“These guys play together,” he said. “There are no individual agendas. They want to be successful and they want to win and that’s really and truly what’s carried us.”


It hasn’t hurt that Sailor pitchers have controlled the strike zone. It hasn’t hurt that the team has committed just 38 errors in 32 games. It hasn’t hurt that Sarasota has reacted to pressure with the steeliness you’d hope from a club with nine seniors and seven juniors.


They’ve been tested in 10 one-run games, of which the Sailors have claimed six. But examine their last four wins — 3-2, 1-0, 3-2 in eight innings, and finally, a 5-3 pulse-pounder in the regional final over defending state champion Steinbrenner. Forced to overcome deficits of 2-0 and 3-1, the Sailors got a three-run homer from Larson in the fifth inning to send them off to Fort Myers for Friday’s 8A semifinal against Oviedo Hagerty.


“There’s no magical formula,” Metcalf said. “To me, it’s really about the kids and I say the kids have pushed the right buttons. They know how to come to work every day and know how to make practice fun and enjoyable.


“But, again, I would hope that whatever happens in Fort Myers, the guys who will be remembered on this team are the nine seniors. They are the guys who turned our season around and provided leadership through example for our younger kids to make this whole thing happen.”


And it’s still happening. The Sailors are smoking, having won 13 of 14. Metcalf said they’re playing “at a pretty high level” and the numbers show it. There’s a definite purpose at the end of that bus ride to Centurylink Field at Hammond Stadium.


“Getting there is not our goal,” Metcalf said. “Our goal is to win it. Our goal is to play in the last game of the season and to win the last game of the season.


“Hopefully it ends on a positive note. It’s not the most talented team individually. But I think the guys reaching the Final Four proves that hard work and teamwork create success.”


Just to be clear, Aristotle didn’t write that.