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District baseball: Playing field appears pretty even for Pasco County teams

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Sat. April 21, 2012 | Matt Baker | Email

District baseball: Playing field appears pretty even for Pasco County teams

Because Pasco County baseball has no dominant teams, it has plenty of parity. Expect that balance to be on full display in the district playoffs. Here are reasons some area teams should go far — or why they’ll likely have their postseason hopes end early.

Land O’Lakes
Players to watch: LHP Brad Hencke, RHP/2B Dylan Harris, SS Zachary Whitaker
Why they’ll succeed: Hencke, a University of Tampa recruit, averages more than a strikeout an inning. The area’s best pitcher has allowed only six earned runs all season while holding opponents to a .153 average.
Why they won’t: Land O’Lakes has slipped with three losses this month. One of those defeats came to Mitchell — the Gators’ opponent in Tuesday’s Class 6A, District 10 semifinal.

Mitchell
Players to watch: INF Joe Koehler, UTIL Cobi Johnson, RHP Garrett Kriston
Why they’ll succeed: Koehler has plenty of power and slugged three home runs against Fivay last week. Kriston has allowed only five earned runs in his past 34 innings, and the Mustangs have recovered after an 0-4 start.
Why they won’t: Mitchell has lost three out of four — including an 11-4 defeat to Nature Coast — and looks like it could be stumbling into the playoffs.

River Ridge
Players to watch: RHP Tommy Peterson, UTIL Jason Heinrich, INF/P Cam Hokanson
Why they’ll succeed: Power. Heinrich, Mike Unger and the USF-bound Peterson all have three home runs. River Ridge earned several big wins, including a sweep of Land O’Lakes.
Why they won’t: If the Royal Knights get by Sunlake in the first round, they must face Tarpon Springs in the district semifinal. River Ridge has lost all three games to the Spongers this spring.

Pasco
Players to watch: P/UTIL Lane Stancil, P/OF Trey Dudley-Giles
Why they’ll succeed: The Pirates have one of the North Suncoast’s top offenses with a .318 average. Pasco has scored at least 10 runs in nine of its past 10 games.
Why they won’t: Pasco’s pitching has been inconsistent. The Pirates have thrown five shutouts, but they’ve also allowed at least 10 runs in five games. That could mean trouble in the playoffs.

Fivay
Players to watch: P Jarred Mattos, C Ryan Mettler, INF AJ Suriano
Why they’ll succeed: The Falcons have one of the area’s top defenses and turned three double plays in an impressive early-season win over rival Ridgewood. Mattos (.327 batting average, 2.28 ERA on the mound) is in the middle of an impressive season.
Why they won’t: Fivay has looked vulnerable after a 12-4 start, dropping six of its past eight games while allowing almost nine runs per contest.

Ridgewood
Players to watch: SS Robert McCabe, P Adam Arrowood, P Joseph Hloska
Why they’ll succeed: Arrowood is putting up stats (.429 batting average, 1.79 ERA) that rank among the best in the county, and Hloska is playing like an ace.
Why they won’t: The Rams’ only three wins this month came against Anclote, Gulf and Hudson — teams with 11 combined wins this spring. Ridgewood has allowed at least eight runs in its past four losses.

Wesley Chapel
Players to watch: OF Zach White, 1B/P Chris Zichy, P Chase Ingram
Why they’ll succeed: The Wildcats have a strong offense, averaging almost six runs per game, and five regulars hold batting averages above .300. Ingram (42 strikeouts) has emerged as one of the area’s top pitchers, and Wesley Chapel is hot after nice wins over Fivay, Mitchell and Ridgewood.
Why they won’t: Inconsistency. The Wildcats have plenty of strong wins but have also suffered a loss to Anclote and two to Zephyrhills.

Wiregrass Ranch
Players to watch: LHP Ryan Kopenski, OF/P Zack Drury, OF Michael Barrone
Why they’ll succeed: Kopenski (1.39 ERA) has had a standout season on the mound, and Drury (team-high 17 RBIs) has been a solid slugger on a balanced offense. Wiregrass’ depth has made it one of the North Suncoast’s most consistent teams all spring.
Why they won’t: The Bulls compete in Class 7A, District 9 with Hillsborough County foes like Gaither, Steinbrenner and Freedom, so their success against Pasco County won’t matter in the playoffs.

District schedules
7A-9 at Gaither

Monday: No. 4 Gaither vs. No. 5 Chamberlain, 7; Tuesday: No. 2 Freedom vs. No. 3 Wiregrass Ranch, 4; No. 1 Steinbrenner vs. Gaither/Chamberlain winner, 7; Thursday: Final, 7

6A-10 at River Ridge
Monday: No. 4 River Ridge vs. No. 5 Sunlake, 7; Tuesday: No. 2 Land O’Lakes vs. No. 3 Mitchell, 4; No. 1 Tarpon Springs vs. River Ridge/Sunlake winner, 7; Thursday: Final, 7

6A-6 at Lecanto
Monday: No. 5 Central vs. No. 4 West Port, 6:30; Tuesday: No. 1 Citrus vs. Central/West Port winner, 5; No. 3 Lecanto vs. No. 2 Springstead, 7:30; Thursday: Final, 6:30

5A-8 at Zephyrhills
Monday: No. 1 Pasco vs. No. 8 Gulf, 4:30; No. 2 Fivay vs. No. 7 Hudson, 7; Tuesday: No. 3 Ridgewood vs. No. 6 Anclote, 4:30; No. 4 Wesley Chapel vs. No. 5 Zephyrhills, 7; Wednesday: semifinals, 4:30 and 7; Friday: Final, 7

5A-7 at Crystal River
Tuesday: No. 4 Nature Coast vs. No. 5 Tavares, 4; No. 3 Crystal River vs. No. 6 Dunnellon, 7; Wednesday: No. 1 Eustis vs. Nature Coast/Tavares winner, 4; No. 2 Hernando vs. Crystal River/Dunnellon, 7; Friday: Final, 7

3A-8 at Bishop McLaughlin
Monday: No. 5 Carrollwood Day vs. No. 4 Seffner Christian, 7; Tuesday: No. 1 Tampa Prep vs. CDS/Seffner winner, 4; No. 3 Bishop McLaughlin vs. No. 2 Brooks-DeBartolo, 7; Friday: Final, 7

2A-8 at Bayshore Christian
Tuesday: No. 1 Cambridge vs. No. 4 Tampa Bay Christian, 4; No. 2 Bayshore Christian vs. No. 3 Academy at the Lakes, 7; Thursday: Final, 6

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