NEW PORT RICHEY — Tarpon Springs ace Michael Dunnigan wasn’t going to take Sunlake for granted.
The senior watched the Seahawks upset River Ridge 1-0 Monday and he wasn’t going allow anything to stop the Spongers from making consecutive regional appearances.
But Dunnigan didn’t have to do it by himself. The Tarpon bats exploded Tuesday, earning 13 hits while defeating Sunlake 13-0 in five innings to advance to the Class 6A, District 10 final.
“I didn’t think we were going to put up 13 runs because (Sunlake) played so tough defensively last night (against River Ridge),” Dunnigan said, who is 8-1 . “I just wanted to come out here and shut them down if we got a couple of runs.”
Dunnigan finished with six strikeouts on 35 pitches. Tarpon coach Dickie Hart pulled him after the third to potentially use Dunnigan in the title game.
Tarpon (22-4) did most of its damage to Sunlake (10-16) in the second inning, sending 10 up to bat with seven crossing the plate. David Miklavcic blasted a two-run double followed by a two-run home run to leftfield by Anthony Bariso.
Land O’Lakes (18-8) rallied in the seventh to square its game at 3, eventually defeating Mitchell (14-12) 4-3 in nine innings.
Down 3-2 with two out in the bottom of the seventh, the Gators’ Cameron Miller and Dylan Harris had consecutive infield singles. A wild pitch put both in scoring position with Miller crossing home on a Mustang error at first base.
Josh Nissen hit a walkoff single down the leftfield line, scoring Zach Whitaker in the ninth.
7A-9: Bad break foils Wiregrass
TAMPA — A fly ball bounced off a player’s head and rolled around until the batter scored and a player was ejected in the middle of an at-bat, and for the Class 7A, District 9 semifinals, that was just the warmup.
After Freedom held off Wiregrass Ranch 5-2 to advance to the final, thanks to the aforementioned plays, it was Gaither joining the Patriots, pulling off two big rallies to stun top-seeded Steinbrenner in extra innings.
The Cowboys staged two comebacks, but it was only fitting to win the way they did — with shortstop Oscar Mercado taking off to steal third and never stopping when the ball bounced past the Warrior catcher, coming around to score in the eighth inning for a 10-9 victory.
Gaither committed four errors in the second inning as Steinbrenner took a 5-0 lead.
But in the top of the third, the Cowboys came right back. After going down in order in their first two at-bats against Steinbrenner starter Chris Williams, Gaither scored five of its own .
Jesse Haney’s double put Steinbrenner (17-7) back in front, and a three-run homer by Cole Gordon seemed to seal Gaither’s fate.
However, trailing 9-6 heading into the top of the sixth, Gaither took advantage of some wild pitching .
In Freedom’s win, Kyle Schindler pitched out of trouble early and struck out eight on the way to a complete game . He was matched by the Bulls’ Ryan Kopenski, who had one bad inning.
After retiring the eight batters he faced, Kopenski walked No. 9 hitter Jake Kitchen with two out in the third inning. Schindler followed with a home run to right-center. After another walk, Eric Schindler hit a high fly ball to rightfield. Austin Drury, who scored on Harry Olsen’s single to give Wiregrass a 1-0 lead in the top of inning, lost the ball in the sun, and it hit him in the head and bounced past the bullpen. Eric Schindler was able to circle the bases to make it 4-0.
6A: Springstead bows out
After a tough season full of trials and tribulations, Springstead fell 1-0 in the Class 6A, District 6 semifinals to Lecanto on an unearned run scored in the sixth inning.
Brandon Brosher was given the nod on the mound by coach George Bennett, who took over for Frank Vitale at midseason after the longtime coach was dismissed by the administration. Brosher responded with a complete game of almost flawless ball, surrendering only three hits and no earned runs.
“It’s been difficult and challenging,” Bennett said. “The kids responded as well as can be expected, I suppose. It’s disappointing to see the seniors miss out on the playoffs.”
In the sixth, Lecanto (14-10) was able to get its leadoff hitter on thanks to a throwing error at third base. A groundout moved the go-ahead run to third, and another grounder to third that was bobbled allowed the runner to score the game’s lone run.
The Panthers kept Springstead (13-9) guessing in large part thanks to the efforts of pitcher Sheldon Baxter, who also tossed a complete game, making it the first time in three years the Eagles haven’t earned a region berth.
Earlier in the night, Citrus (15-10) booked its spot in title game with an 8-1 win over Central (10-14).
2A-8: Academy at the Lakes allowed 13 runs in its season-ending 13-7 loss to Bayshore Christian.
Staff writer John C. Cotey and correspondent Derek J. LaRiviere contributed to this report.