TAMPA — For the past six months, Bloomingdale coach Kris Wilken had planned for the very situation in which the Bulls found themselves Tuesday. All he wanted to do was make sure his team made the district semifinals and could put the ball in Logan Crouse’s hands. The Bloomingdale ace, Wilken believed, could take care of the rest.
What Wilken couldn’t plan for, though, was Alonso ace Alex Faedo standing between the Bulls and their region berth. And for the first six innings of Tuesday’s Class 8A, District 7 semifinal, it was a pitchers’ duel, with Crouse and Faedo combining for 12 strikeouts.
But in the top of the seventh, the Bulls (17-8, 6-5) took advantage of Alonso mistakes, and Crouse scored the only run of the game to lead his Bulls to a 1-0 victory and a spot in Thursday’s district final against Plant.
“It was kind of a wait and see who was going to make the first mistakes,” Wilken said, “and my guys held up.”
Faedo, who came into the game with a 0.68 ERA, gave up just two hits through the first six innings. But after striking out the leadoff batter in the seventh, Faedo walked Crouse and hit Josh Mote with a pitch.
Wilken said he usually replaces Crouse, a Florida State commit, with a pinch runner on nights when he pitches. But with the game on the line, Wilken kept his best player on the field. And it paid off.
In the next at-bat, Jamie Calloway hit a ground ball to rightfield, and the Alonso (18-7, 8-3) first baseman overthrew the second baseman, giving Crouse enough time to run home.
Crouse, who had allowed just two hits through the first six innings, gave up a leadoff single, but struck out the last two batters, including Faedo for the final out of the game.
Crouse ended the night with eight strikeouts. But he admitted that after a long pitchers’ duel, the last one was the sweetest.
“Me and him, there’s definitely a rivalry there. Two top competitors, we always want to out-compete the other one,” Crouse said of Faedo. “For it to be him, it just felt good.”
The second semifinal of the night — in which Plant beat Riverview 2-0 — featured more top pitching, as Sharks (11-12, 3-8) left-hander Garrett Bye gave up three hits and struck out eight in 4 2/3 innings of work.
Plant’s two first-inning runs, scored on a two-RBI single from Stephen Chamblee, would be enough for the Panthers to advance, though, as Plant (21-5, 11-0) right-hander Jake Woodford worked his way out of some sixth-inning trouble and got three quick outs in the seventh to end the game.
“He’s just a bulldog. He’s our guy,” Plant coach Dennis Braun said about his ace. “That’s why he is where he is, and that’s why he’s out there, and that’s why he pitches all the big games. He can get us out of a jam.”
5A: Robinson, Jesuit to meet in final
TAMPA — After Robinson lost its first two games to Jesuit by a combined three runs, the Knights will get one more shot at the perennial powerhouse Tigers.
Robinson blew out Spoto 8-0, and Jesuit gave coach Richie Warren his 200th career victory with a 13-0 win over Middleton in five innings in Tuesday’s Class 5A, District 9 semifinals. That sets up a showdown Thursday at Jesuit for the championship.
“We’ve played them tough, but they’re a good team,” Knights coach Kevin McCray said. “That’s why they ended up finding a way to win in those games.”
Robinson (9-14) cruised to its third consecutive playoff appearance behind a strong performance from right-hander Patrick Kiszla.
The 6-foot-3 junior started jittery, allowing two of his four hits in the first two innings. His 5 2/3 shutout innings featured six strikeouts and only two walks.
“He was a little erratic in the first couple innings …but then he settled down,” McCray said. “He started hitting with his off-speed pitches and got ahead.”
His Knights followed suit. Two throwing errors brought Shawn Herron home in the second before Robinson broke the game open with a five-run third inning.
The Knights opened the inning with five consecutive hits, including a two-run single by Charlie Cole and Ricardo Montero’s double off the leftfield wall that brought home two more runs.
Brandon Camargo was one of the bright spots for Spoto (3-22) after recording two of his team’s seven hits.
Jesuit (19-6) dominated the late game against winless Middleton to qualify for its 13th playoff appearance since 2000.
Pitchers Kasey Radke, JJ Niekro and Steven Owusu combined to strike out 12 of the 18 batters they faced, with Kameron Lewis collecting Middleton’s only hit. Junior Kennie Taylor knocked in six runs, with three coming on a first-inning home run.
Jesuit celebrated Warren’s milestone victory with a blue and white cake afterward.
“Great coaches and a lot of great players,” Warren said.
4A-10: Crusaders move on with ease
Freshman outfielder Jordan Butler helped lead Tampa Catholic to a region berth, hitting a two-run double in the Crusaders’ 7-0 district semifinal win against Sarasota Booker.
Aside from Butler’s big hits, coach Ty Griffin said his team took advantage of walks and passed balls to get ahead early. Junior right-hander Reeves Martin got the win for Tampa Catholic, giving up two hits in six innings pitched.
The Crusaders (16-8, 4-2) will meet Berkeley Prep (14-12, 4-3) in Thursday’s district final. The top-seeded Bucs beat Tampa Catholic both times the teams met this season, each time by a single run.
“We’ve just got to come up with some big hits,” Griffin said. “I think both coaches expect it to be a pitcher’s battle.”
3A-7: ’Canes, Terps on to championship
SPRING HILL — After a one-year absence, Bishop McLaughlin is headed back to the region playoffs. The berth comes after the Hurricanes defeated Carrollwood Day 5-3.
The Patriots (13-10) seemed to have things under control after jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first. Bryce Benedict, who singled, and Colin Campbell, who reached on a walk, scored when a wild pitch got by Bishop McLaughlin catcher Dillon Morton, then a throwing error got by starting pitcher Carson Ragsdale.
“It was a tough game for (Ragsdale), but he’ll bounce back in his next start,” Bishop McLaughlin coach Jeff Swymer said. “Frankie (German) did a great job, and (Will) Potosky was very good, too.”
Ragsdale (two earned runs, two strikeouts) struggled with control for the Hurricanes (16-7), walking six and throwing three wild pitches over his three innings of work before being pulled for reliever German.
In the bottom of the third, the Bishop McLaughlin offense finally got to Benedict (3-5), the Carrollwood starter on the mound. Four consecutive hits to start the frame, including two doubles, tied the score. The go-ahead fourth run scored when Paul Coumoulos knocked in R.J. Perciavalle on a routine ground out. That would be all German and Potosky, who got his third save with one inning in relief, needed.
In the nightcap, Tampa Prep bested Seffner Christian 10-0 in six innings to advance to the district title game Thursday.
“Sam Martin was great on the mound,” Terrapins coach A.J. Hendrix said. “Hopefully, we can keep it up on Thursday against Bishop McLaughlin.”
Martin tossed a complete-game, one-hit shutout to dominate the Crusaders (12-12). The Terrapins (17-9) overwhelmed from the start, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first and added another four runs in the third.
2A-7: Lancers romp
Cambridge Christian beat Academy at the Lakes 14-2 in its district semifinal, earning the right to play Bayshore Christian for the district title on Thursday.
Sophomore catcher Devin Lopez led the Lancers, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs, two doubles and two runs scored. Six of nine Cambridge Christian starters recorded at least one hit, and the Lancers combined for seven.
Bayshore Christian and Cambridge Christian split when the teams met in the regular season, with the Faith Warriors taking the first game 10-5 and the Lancers winning the second, 8-7.
Staff writer Matt Baker and correspondent Derek J. LaRiviere contributed to this report.