MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
CLEARWATER — Top seed Seminole managed to avoid an upset in its Class 7A, District 10 semifinal game against Northeast. Second seed Countryside wasn’t so lucky.
The Warhawks blew a five-run lead in the sixth inning Wednesday but came back with a run in the bottom of the seventh to defeat the Vikings 6-5 at Countryside. Clearwater gave up a two-run lead in the sixth but held on to defeat the Cougars 4-3 in eight innings.
Seminole will face Clearwater in the district final at 4 p.m. Friday at Countryside. Both teams have qualified for next week’s region tournament.
The Tornadoes had only five wins entering the district tournament. But they shocked St. Petersburg on Tuesday and did the same to Countryside.
Clearwater (7-20) scored first in the second inning, but Countryside (17-9) quickly tied it in the bottom of the second. Two more runs in the third, which included an RBI single by Clay Gilman, made the score 3-1.
That lead held up behind the pitching of Nick Solenberger until the sixth, when Kevin Stryker rapped a two-run single to right to tie the game. But in the top of the eighth, Gilman doubled home pinch-runner James Andrasek for the winner.
The Warhawks (22-4) built a five-run lead after scoring three runs in the first inning and one each in the third and fourth. Jordan Doyle had a two-run single in the first and added an RBI in the third.
The lead vanished in the sixth when Northeast got hits from seven of its first eight batters. Roman Haddick had an RBI single and Bret Maxwell was awarded home on an interference call on third baseman Adam Atkinson. After Logan Peel’s single and RBI, Ryan Harbour hit a double off reliever Alex McGathey that tied the game.
Northeast tried a squeeze bunt with Harbour on third, but Chris Clark couldn’t get the bunt down.
“We played well but we had one terrible inning,” Seminole coach Jeff Pincus said. “It was like a nightmare that wouldn’t end. But tip your hat to Northeast. It looked like they might have folded up the tents but they came back.”
In the seventh, Seminole loaded the bases on three walks from reliever Robby Coursel. With one out, Tylor Craft squared to bunt on a suicide squeeze, but Coursel’s pitch sailed wide and allowed Atkinson to score the winning run.
6A-12: Osceola starts slow in win
Osceola got an early scare from Largo but pulled away for a 15-5 win that ended in the sixth inning due to the 10-run mercy rule. The Warriors will play at Lakewood Ranch on Friday for the district championship.
Osceola starter Buddy Dougherty gave up five runs in two innings. Rickey Whiteman pitched four scoreless innings to get the win. The big hit came from Jaret Helinger, who had a two-run double that gave the Warriors their first lead.
“(Largo) put up three in the first inning and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, no,’ ” Osceola coach Stefan Futch said. “But Rickey kept us in the game and we started hitting.”
5A- 12: Dunedin gets Lakewood's best
DUNEDIN — Lakewood wasn’t supposed to be on the same field as Dunedin, let alone taking the No. 1 seed the distance.
The Falcons built an early 3-0 lead Wednesday, but pitcher Tyler Bentley kept the Spartans alive, allowing Lakewood to rally in the sixth inning. Dunedin benefited from a costly error in the seventh, defeating Lakewood 4-3 to advance to the Class 5A, District 12 title game.
Heading into the bottom of the seventh with a runner on second and tied at 3, Dunedin’s Trevor Jensen bounced a high-hopper to Bentley, who overthrew first base, conceding Aaron Chesson to round third and cross home for the winner.
“These kids battled through a lot of stuff this year,” Lakewood interim coach Jayce Ganchou said. “They came back against a tough team, tough pitcher, and they have nothing to be ashamed of.”
Bentley was superb, allowing five hits while striking out nine and walking eight. The three earned runs came in the first three innings, and the senior held Dunedin (18-7) scoreless until the seventh.
“I’ve been around a long time, and Mr. Bentley has some huge guts,” Dunedin coach Tom Hilbert said. “Innings four through seven he just got stronger.”
Dunedin ace Colyn O’Connell was cruising through the first five innings, but four walks and a couple of wild pitches gave Lakewood (9-11) the opening it needed.
Down 3-1 with two out, Lakewood’s Mike Ferrandiz lasered a two-run single up centerfield. Hilbert quickly put in relief pitcher Alex Hart, who got the final four outs, earning the win.
“That’s on me for leaving (O’Connell) out there for so long, but he’s our guy,” Hilbert said. “(Lakewood) had all of the momentum in the world and Alex Hart picks up myself and Colyn with a great pitching performance.”
5A-12: Boca Ciega’s season ended with a 3-1 loss to Bradenton Bayshore in a semifinal. The Pirates (7-18) managed only two hits, but starting pitcher Tanner Watkins gave up only six hits.
3A-9: St. Petersburg Catholic played its first game of the district tournament and had no problem with Northside Christian, winning 17-0. The Barons will take on Calvary Christian, which defeated Indian Rocks Christian 5-2 in the other semifinal game. Nate Reed got the win for the Warriors and also had a double.
Times correspondent Basil Spyridakos contributed to this report.