It’s Tuesday morning and East Lake baseball coach Dan Genna is handing out dog biscuits. Later that evening, his Eagles would play Northeast in a Class 7A region semifinal.
Genna didn’t expect his players to actually eat the biscuits (although we hear some did try). He just wanted to remind them of the team’s adopted motto for the playoffs.
“You gotta stay hungry,’’ Genna said. “Like a hungry dog.”
East Lake (21-8) limped into the postseason. In fact, if not for a Pinellas Park throwing error in the bottom of the eighth inning of the district semifinal, the Eagles might not even be in regionals.
But here they are.
After a 3-2 district final loss to Northeast, East Lake pulled off the improbable by winning 2-1 in 10 innings at Sarasota — that’s No. 2 in the MaxPreps state rankings Sarasota.
Then came Tuesday’s convincing 9-0 win over the Vikings, East Lake’s first win over Northeast in four tries this season. Brad Deppermann dominated, giving up only three hits in seven innings and going 4-for-5 with a home run and a double.
“I think we’re just now peaking,” Deppermann said. “The bats are coming alive, the defense is playing well.”
Now the Eagles will travel to Melbourne for the region final, the first time East Lake has reached this round since 2002.
Deppermann (5-3) has been the ace all season. He has pitched 59.1 innings with a 1.09 ERA and 72 strikeouts. In two region games, he has pitched 14 innings and allowed only one run. But with just two days rest, he won’t start Friday.
Genna has a slew of pitchers he can throw —Steven Plaskett, Ryan Wall and Cameron Churchill — but the hitting has been more inconsistent. East Lake struggles to score runs. The nine Tuesday equaled those scored in the Eagles’ previous four games combined.
“We’ve been working on the hitting all season,” Genna said. “Practices have been tough. When you have our pitching staff we’re facing tough pitching even in practice. And then there’s the schedule. We’ve played a really tough schedule. It’s really helping us now. We don’t care about those early season losses. The last five or six games are the most important.”
Melbourne (28-4), which has won 10 straight, awaits. Is there another long-shot win for East Lake?
“You never know,’’ Genna said. “Hey, we beat Sarasota, so…”
Like East Lake, Calvary Christian had to battle through regionals after losing the district final to Clearwater Central Catholic. And like East Lake, the Warriors had to beat the Marauders in the region semifinals after losing to them three straight times.
And Calvary Christian also rode the strong arm of its ace into the region finals. Daniel Broeseker threw 127 pitches and shut out the Marauders, who lost their first and only game of the season.
“He’s been our guy all year long,’’ Calvary Christian coach Greg Olsen said. “He’s been huge for us. He sets the tone.’’
Olsen said Broeseker will not start Friday against Fort Myers Canterbury, but he might throw a couple of innings in relief.
The Warriors (22-7) have never been this far. To stay in the playoffs they’ll have to continue to get timely hitting from players like Tommy Georgevich, Graham Hoffman, Ray Hansen, Johnnie Schneider and Grant McDaniel.
Calvary Christian is loaded with confidence after finally getting past CCC. It was a marquee win for the Warriors baseball program, but Olsen doesn’t want it to be the last.
“That was a great win for our program and maybe down the road we’ll look back on it and realize that,’’ Olsen said. “But right now we’re focused on winning one more game.’’
7 p.m. Friday
7A: East Lake at Melbourne
3A: Calvary Christian at Fort Myers Canterbury