Seminole High junior Charlie McDaniel threw a complete game shutout to clinch the Class 9A state championship for the ‘Noles.

For the first time since 1992, Seminole High School has won the FHSAA baseball state championship.

Coming off a 13-4 semifinal victory over Palm Beach Central, the ‘Noles were buoyed by senior sensation Matt Allan.

On Tuesday, Allan was selected by the New York Mets in the third round of the 2019 MLB Draft (89th overall).

However, it was junior left-hander Charlie McDaniel that Coach Kenne Brown handed the ball to bring home the first state title in 27 years.

“I expected to pitch in the final game,” said McDaniel. “The way our rotation has been set up all year has been Matt pitching earlier in the week, and then I’ve pitched our second game of the week.

“Coach explained going into the state playoffs that Matt would be the guy that would get us to the championship and that I would be on the mound for the final game.

“I definitely had some nerves and butterflies going in. But I just had to keep reminding myself to stay in the moment, keep breathing, and not to let the game get bigger than what it was.

“Once you get into the heat of competition, you have to focus on each specific pitch or play, or else you become overwhelmed with the situation and start worrying about things that are out of your control.

“I’m just glad I was able to help our team win and that I was able to compete for the guys behind me.”

McDaniel rose to the occasion

In his only start since losing to Spruce Creek in the district championship on May 10, McDaniel pitched the game of his life — throwing seven shutout innings, while scattering five hits, walking one and striking out five.

With two outs and a man on third base in the bottom of the seventh, McDaniel made a super-athletic diving grab on a ball hit off the end of the bat to ensure the 1-0 victory over Miami Coral Reef.

Speaking with McDaniel about his game-saving grab, he left it all to instinct.

“On that pitch, I was really just trying to throw a fastball up and inside where I felt like he wouldn’t be able to make hard contact,” McDaniel said. “I didn’t expect him to hit it the way it came off the bat.

“Everything happened so instantly I didn’t have time to think about the play; I just went after the ball, knew that the tying run was on third — and that it had to be caught.”

A coach’s guidance

With Kenne Brown returning to the Seminole High Varsity dugout, where he was an assistant on the ’92 championship team, McDaniel acknowledged that Coach Brown had his work cut out for him.

“At the beginning of the year there was a lack of trust,” McDaniel said.

“He looked at this group of guys, realized we were very distanced and divided — and was able to bring us together in ways other than just baseball.

“Throughout most of the fall and winter, we spent our Saturday mornings going to clean up and basically rebuild the field. Along with that, we had a few weeks of conditioning, running what are called ‘Nines.’

“These are a variation of 90 feet sprints that not only get you in better shape but ultimately test your mental fortitude.

“I think these two things truly helped our team come together, create a stronger sense of pride in our program and school, and really set us up for success.”

As the playoffs began, Brown continued to better his student-athletes, enlisitng a sense of invincibility on the ballfield.

“Coach Brown is special,” McDaniel says. “He’s a motivator. He would always remind us that we play our best baseball when we ‘play against the game’ not the opponent.

“What the other team does is out of our control. But we knew that we like to play hard-nosed, aggressive baseball — and coach did a great job of reminding us that the game isn’t any bigger than what it is.”

Matt Allan’s influence

Whether or not Matt Allan ultimately decides to sign with the New York Mets or honor his scholarship to the University of Florida remains to be seen.

Regardless, the staff ace of Seminole High’s state winning team had a significant impact on McDaniel and his growth as a player.

“Having someone as talented as Matt is always extremely beneficial,” says McDaniel.

“It’s been wonderful to be able to pick his brain on different things about pitching and his routine. Matt’s been a great player and teammate this year, and he’s someone I’ve strived to compete with throughout the season.”

 Seminole High’s unforgettable run

McDaniel summed up the Noles’ 23-9 record state championship winning team with one word, “defiant.”

“There was a lot of adversity that our group had to overcome to become the team we ended the season as,” McDaniel said.

“I think we were able to defy not only what many other people thought we wouldn’t or couldn’t do, but that we were able to challenge our own issues and struggles.

“We wanted to create a competitive culture for Seminole High School Baseball moving forward, and I think we were able to do so, defying our own and others’ past doubts.

“It’s been such a great experience with a special group of teammates and coaches, and I know it’s something I’m going to remember and cherish for the rest of my life.”