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ZEPHYRHILLS — In his first season since replacing coaching legend Larry Beets, Julius Matos guided Ridgewood to its first district championship since his predecessor won three straight in 2003-05.
Fittingly, Matos credited Beets, who won 565 games in 28 seasons, after the Rams’ 16-6 win over Pasco in Friday’s Class 5A, District 8 championship game.
“These guys were well-coached and well-instructed when I got here,” said Matos, a former-major league player.
Ridgewood, which lost twice to Pasco during the regular season after leading in both games, took a 6-0 lead early before the Pirates pulled within 7-5. But the Rams pulled away with nine runs over the fifth and sixth innings to clinch it.
“These guys learned during the season how to handle tough situations; how to stay in the moment and not let it get away from them,” Matos said.
The first of two six-run innings for Ridgewood (14-10) came in the second when 11 batters came to the plate. Pasco starter Danny Gold loaded the bases on a hit batter and two walks before reliever Troy Rivera allowed run-scoring singles by Thomas Moschner, Gage Ledford, Tim Osborne and Joseph Macaluso. Two more runs scored on Robert Anderson’s sacrifice fly and when Robert McCabe was hit with the bases loaded.
Pasco (17-8) had its biggest inning in the third, scoring three runs to cut the deficit to 6-4 on Logan Johnson’s two-run double and Mikey Wilson’s RBI single.
Ridgewood’s second six-run inning in the fifth put away the game. McCabe, Adam Arrowood and Anderson had RBI singles to highlight that frame.
In the sixth, Macaluso’s two-run double keyed a three-run inning and the game ended early due to the 10-run mercy rule.
5A-7: Leopards struggle with errors
Errors proved costly in Hernando’s bid for a third straight district crown.
Tavares continued its string of upsets in the Class 5A, District 7 tournament by dispatching the Leopards 11-9 in eight innings.
The Bulldogs (14-13), seeded fifth, took advantage of six Hernando miscues in the field, which resulted in six runs. The final two errors, errant throws in the eighth, gave Tavares the final two-run advantage.
Hernando (16-10) never led, down 4-0 in the first after a couple early errors, but the second seed battled back. A two-out, two-run double from Christian Arroyo tied the score at 9 in the bottom of the sixth.
In the seventh and eighth innings Hernando loaded the bases before Tavares doused its attempt at a rally.
Leopard starter Cody Gillis pitched well but was pulled when the Bulldogs held a 9-5 lead in the fifth. The senior pitcher was victimized by poor play in the field for the second time in as many starts. In his last time on the mound against Eustis, only three of the seven runs he surrendered were earned.
Reliever Trae Ratliff did a good job of silencing the Tavares bats, but it wasn’t enough.
Hernando will move on to Wednesday’s region quarterfinal round at Ridgewood.
3A-8: Ninth-inning single foils Bishop
Tyler Jarrell’s two-out single in the bottom of the ninth inning gave Tampa Prep the Class 3A, District 8 championship with a 3-2 win over Bishop McLaughlin.
“It was basically two heavyweights going at it toe to toe,” Hurricanes coach Tom LoSauro said. “We had several chances to win. They made great plays to stop us.”
Bishop (18-9) got its only two runs with a two-out base hit by Tanner Koch. Terps ace Durin O’Linger didn’t allow a run for the rest of his complete game.
The Hurricanes’ best chance came in the fifth inning with a base hit by Koch, but Watson Ransom gunned down Josh Falk at home from leftfield.
Tampa Prep (16-9) scored two runs in Colton Nussel’s five innings, and Andy Olaniel pitched 32/3 scoreless innings before Jarrell’s extra-innings, walkoff hit.
Correspondent Derek J. LaRiviere and staff writer Matt Baker contributed to this report.