HUDSON — Of course, it ended with the bases loaded. That’s just how Land O’Lakes has been living lately.
“We don’t do anything easy,” longtime Gators coach Calvin Baisley said with a big grin after Thursday’s 7-3 victory over Sunlake in the 5A-8 district championship.
Land O’Lakes (18-8) ended a three-year streak of finishing as district runnerup.
It will host the loser of today’s 5A-7 final between Pasco and Hernando in a region quarterfinal Wednesday.
Sunlake, which will make its first regional appearance, will play at the winner of that game.
Offensive star Alex Reynolds struck out two batters in the seventh but then walked two Seahawks to bring up the dangerous David Castillo as the tying run. Castillo grounded the first pitch to second for the final out.
Reynolds went 3-for-4 and drove in two runs. His single in the top of the fourth snapped a 2-2 tie. And he was in the middle of a three-run sixth that put the Gators ahead 7-2.
Sunlake (17-9) had its chances. The Seahawks overcame an early 2-0 hole, tying it on back-to-back doubles by Colton King and Zac Howard in the third. But on Omar Cala’s single up the middle that would have put the Seahawks in front, Connor Stephens threw Howard out at home.
With the game still tied in the bottom of the fourth, Sunlake walked three times to load the bases. Reliever Brett Renner came in and got Castillo on a long flyout.
The Gators went ahead 4-2 in the fifth. Dylan Leonard led off with a single, was bunted over by Stephens and scored on Reynolds’ hit. Land O’Lakes tacked on three in the sixth with Kyle Sheffield, Reynolds and Liam Heaney driving in runs.
“I’ve been putting together some good at-bats the last couple of weeks,” Reynolds said; “just staying back on the ball.”
The Gators looked nothing like a No. 4 seed. And for that matter, Sunlake is stronger than the typical No. 3 seed. It won the Sunshine Athletic Conference last week.
Cala and John Eales had two hits apiece for the Seahawks.
Hilgenberg gave the Gators their 2-0 advantage with the game’s only homer.
“Second place was getting old,” he said.
Sunlake is happy its season continues but was not in an accepting mood afterward. King was displeased over what he felt should have been a walk right after Castillo had singled to make it 7-3 in the sixth. What looked like a low pitch would have had the bases loaded with one out. Instead, King grounded out on the next pitch.
Said King: “We wanted to bring it home.”
3A-7: Closer’s complete game propels Bishop McLaughlin
Will Potosky had pitched just 15 full innings all season for Bishop McLaughlin before its district final against Tampa Prep. But coach Jeff Swymer decided to start his usual closer in the biggest game of the season to date.
It paid off for the Hurricanes, who beat Tampa Prep 2-0 for the school’s fourth district championship.
Bishop McLaughlin (17-7) scored a run in the first inning on an error, and Zack Kampsen drove in a run in the second inning.
With Potosky, who gave up six hits in a complete game, on the mound, two runs would be enough to beat the Terrapins (17-10).
“We just had a hunch he would be effective against them,” Swymer said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I expect him to throw a complete game.”
Times staff writer Kelly Parsons contributed to this report.