There are seven local players who will be participating in the NCAA Baseball Tournament beginning on Friday.
South Dade alum Alex Manoah headlines the list after winning Big 12 Pitcher of the Year as he looks to help lead West Virginia (37-20) to its first ever regional title. The Mountaineers are hosting the four-team, double-elimination regional and begin play on Friday with Manoah set to start on Saturday against Texas A&M or Duke.
“It’s exciting,” Manoah said. “This is our place and they’re going to come play us here. We’re hard to beat here. It should be a fun regional.”
Manoah, a projected first-round pick in June’s MLB Draft, is 9-3 with a 1.85 ERA in 15 starts. He has struck out a school-record 135 batters this season.
While Manoah is the best local player in the tournament, Westminster Christian’s Julian Infante is on the best team as he looks to help No. 2 national seed Vanderbilt (49-10) make a strong run beginning with hosting the Nashville Regional. Infante is hitting .226 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs in his final season.
Westminster Christian has four other alums also in the tournament with the quartet playing for Miami (39-18), the No. 2 seed in the Starkville Regional. Second baseman Anthony Vilar has started all 57 games, hitting .282 with four
home runs and 37 RBIs. Outfielder Dylan Cloonan is hitting .244 with one home run and four RBIs, infielder Tyler Paige is hitting .111, and relief pitcher Alex Ruiz has a 1.59 ERA with six strikeouts.
The Hurricanes also feature South Dade alum Willy Escala who teamed up with Manoah on their 2015 state championship team. Escala is hitting .258 with eight RBIs.
Miami faces Central Michigan (46-12) in its first game with a potential matchup with No. 6 national seed Mississippi State (46-13) in the second game.
“I grew up here and have dreamed about this,” said Vilar, whose father Henry played at Miami. “This is one step to our ultimate goal. We just have to win the regional and let’s see where the Super Regional takes us.”
West Virginia: P Alek Manoah, South Dade.
Vanderbilt: 1B Julian Infante, Westminster Christian.
Miami: OF Dylan Cloonan, Westminster Christian; IF Willy Escala, South Dade; IF Tyler Paige, Westminster Christian; P Alex Ruiz, Westminster Christian; 2B Anthony Vilar, Westminster