Larry BlockSFHSSports: Twitter | Facebook

Having been around high school baseball for many, many decades in South Florida, the competition level has always been as good as you get.

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Much like football prospects from South Florida dominate the landscape nationally, baseball has been doing this since the days of legendary Steve Carlton (North Miami), Charlie Hough and Bucky Dent (Hialeah), and Woody Woodward (Coral Gables).

There is little doubt that this region of the country has always been the place to find so many elite players of the past – as well as modern day standouts such as Eric Hosmer, Alex Rodriguez, John Jay, J.D. Martinez, Manny Machado, Anthony Rizzo, Gaby Sanchez, Nick Castellanos, Matt Latos, Mike Fiers and Mike Napoli.

If you look at the teams and coaches in south Florida, especially this year, you may have a group that is on par with anyone nationally. It has been proven over the past decade – with not only the elite prospects that are currently playing at the college level, but also those young players who are currently competing at the minor league level.

Competition Is The Best
If anyone wants to argue about how talented the baseball in south Florida is, all you have to do is watch a game – like USA No. 1 Archbishop McCarthy and perennial power Flanagan.

Last Friday night, the nationally-rated Mavericks, which were unbeaten this season, visited the always competitive and talented Falcons led by head coach Ray Evans.

In a game that most felt that the prospect-rich Mavericks and veteran head coach Rich Bielski would win, the talent that South Florida possesses once again showed up in a major way.

The 4-2 victory by the Falcons (16-4) and senior pitcher Nicholas MacDonald, who was outstanding – striking out eight in six innings, was impressive.

Flanagan jumped out to a 4-0 lead, giving MacDonald – a West Broward transfer – a nice cushion to work with going against a talented Archbishop McCarthy lineup.

“The competition that we play here in South Florida each and every week is something you just do not find anywhere else,” Evans pointed out. “Just look at the athletes who not only are playing professionally but who are making an impact in college from this region. It is truly amazing, and that’s how you get raise the bar.”

It Only Gets Better
These two teams represent a small part of what South Florida is all about. While Florida’s No. 1 team, Archbishop McCarthy, was going down, so was the top Class 9A program in the state as Christopher Columbus picked up some major momentum heading into the GMAC baseball tournament with a 2-1 win over South Dade (20-2).

Dominick Diaz struck out six and Matt Alfonso had two hits for the 15-7 Explorers.

As good as Archbishop McCarthy, Flanagan, South Dade and Columbus are – this is indeed a two-county area that will have a say in just about every classification.

With the district playoffs coming up, here is a look at some of the teams to keep an eye on.

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Class 9A
We have already established that South Dade and Columbus both have the quality pitching, coaching and enough tremendous players to make a solid impact. Just getting out of the 305 will be tough. Hialeah Gardens and Coral Park could be tough – if things go right.

Coach Todd Fitz-Gerald and his Douglas Eagles are ready for a legitimate run along with battled tested Flanagan.

Class 8A
St. Thomas Aquinas returns to the elite class once again this year. And while the Raiders hold the upper hand so far this season, head coach Troy Cameron looks to keep things going.

As the Raiders go in as favorites, keep a close eye on the always competitive Nova Titans with their Hall of Famer coach Pat McQuaid. Also, watch for Piper (Pat Pisani) and Fort Lauderdale (Terry Portice) as well.

Class 6A
Well, the team that has won five out of the past six state titles – and is among the best in the country – Archbishop McCarthy – is easily the team to beat here. But as the Mavericks have found out, you cannot let your guard down for a second.

American Heritage is always loaded with impressive talent – and baseball players who have been there and done that, so on any given day, Bruce Aven’s squad can knock you off.

Hialeah’s Barbara Goleman (Jose Fernandez) is always loaded with tremendous talent, and the Gators have the talent to make a strong run.

Class 5A
Here is a class where South Florida really has a chance to make a huge impact – and just getting to the state tournament will be a major accomplishment.

Sitting atop that field are the Raiders of Gulliver Prep, but that may not be a great place to be – with Monsignor Pace (Tom Duffin), Pembroke Pines Somerset Academy (Onel Garcia), Miami LaSalle (Oscar Benitez), Miami Mater Lakes (Cesar Temes) and North Broward Prep (Brian Campbell) all having the talent to pull off a major surprise.

Class 4A
Another huge battle to get out of the south may happen here with power Miami Westminster Christian having another tremendous season – but it is not a clear path for head coach Emil Castellanos and the Warriors.

Look for very tough Florida Christian (), Calvary Christian (Alan Kunkel), University School (Dan Rovetto) and Miami SLAM Academy (Afonso Otero) to also give it a strong push.

Class 3A
The team with the best chance here would be head coach Ihosvany Garciga and the Miami Archbishop Carroll Bulldogs, which have come up with some key wins this year.

Class 2A
Here is another class that south Florida certainly holds a huge advantage with Westwood Christian (Julio Andrade) and the always talented and impressive Brito Private, which has plenty of athletes to make a run.

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Also, Miami Christian has been talented as well this season – playing against very talented teams.