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TAMPA — A brisk wind blew directly to dead centerfield Wednesday at Leto, and with it went any chance of a pitchers’ duel in the 5A-9 semifinals.
In a do-or-die matchup pitting USF-bound King ace Devin Smith and Freedom No. 2 hurler Kyle Schindler, the teams combined for 23 hits in the Lions’ 14-9 triumph. Gaither and Leto teamed for the same hit total in the nightcap — a five-inning, 17-4 Cowboys romp.
“It’s high school baseball where there’s a lot of pressure on you in these first two (district) rounds where it’s win or go home,” said Lions coach Jim Macaluso, who seeks career triumph No. 503 in tonight’s 7 p.m. title game against the Cowboys.
“They know it and you don’t play relaxed. Devin, he was just not relaxed the whole day, but give them credit; they hung in there and got it done.”
Lions speedster Javoris Reynolds went 4-for-5 with a double and three stolen bases, including a steal home in the sixth. Freedom’s Dave Seward (4-for-4) collected three of his five RBIs in the third with a home run off Smith that cleared the 16-foot fence in dead center.
That tied the score at 6-all. King (16-6) scored the next seven runs.
In the second game, Alejandro Brunet collected four RBIs and finished a triple shy of hitting for the cycle to lead the No. 2-seeded Cowboys (14-8). Jose Gonzalez had two doubles and three RBIs; Oscar Mercado finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs.