Heavily favored Hernando narrowly escaped with a state playoff berth Thursday night when the Leopards upended Lecanto in the Class 4A, District semifinals at Sunlake.
Thanks to a superb pitching effort from Brett Maggard and a winning hit off the bat of Tyler Bammert, Hernando won 2-1 over the Panthers.
Bammert knocked in pinch runner Brandon Bell in the bottom of the seventh. Matt Brady led off the frame with a walk for Hernando (23-5) and was replaced by Bell. Two outs later, Bammert (2-for-4, RBI, run scored) made his way to the plate.
Christian Arroyo, who missed most of this season with a hip injury, knocked in the other run for the Leopards when he doubled home Bammert earlier in the game.
“It was really a pitchers’ duel,” Hernando coach Tim Sims said. “(Thomas Bevis) was tough on us.”
The rest was credited to Maggard. He went all seven innings, striking out six, walking only two and holding Lecanto (12-12) to only three hits.
In the early semifinal, Land O’Lakes (19-7) received a solid performance from senior Steven Rosario, who pitched a complete game and allowed only three hits while striking out two in a 5-1 victory over River Ridge.
River Ridge pitcher Cody Boland could not find his groove as the senior allowed seven hits and four runs over three-plus innings.
Land O’Lakes senior catcher Gino Pepenella helped contribute by knocking in two runs off two singles, and junior Kent Taylor also had two RBIs, including a double. Gators shortstop Trae Urban scored twice.
The Royal Knights (11-16) scored their lone run during a double play, which ended up scoring Boland from third base in the sixth inning.
Derek J. LaRiviere and Andy Villamarzo, Times correspondents