With only one high school playoff game last week, area baseball coaches didn’t have much of a decision to make. They just handed the ball to their top pitchers and let them do their thing.
This is the week coaches earn their paychecks.
Do they throw their ace in Tuesday’s region semifinals? Or hope their No. 2 pitcher is good enough to get the team to Friday’s region finals?
The choice is easier for coaches who have solid No. 2s. For most of the season, they don’t pitch in the big games, taking a back seat to the Tyler Danishes of the bay area. But this week, to advance to the state final four, the aces aren’t the most valuable pitchers.
Here’s a look at the somewhat unsung area pitchers who could be key to a state tournament run:
Anderson Baldy, Berkeley Prep: It was this 6-foot-3 senior who pitched three scoreless innings in the Bucs’ 7-6 10-inning win over DeSoto County in the region quarterfinals. His last start was similarly impressive: one run on three hits and 12 strikeouts in a 6-1 win over Brooks-DeBartolo on April 23. He’s been more uneven the rest of the year, evidenced by a 3-5 record and 4.63 ERA.
Daniel Broeseker, Calvary Christian: If Calvary can get past district nemesis Clearwater Central Catholic, it has to feel comfortable about Broeseker. The junior right-hander is 8-3 with a 1.48 ERA in 61.2 innings pitched. He has started 10 games, just one fewer than ace Nate Reed, and has four complete games. He is also a power pitcher with control, evidenced by his 70 strikeouts and 23 walks.
Brandon Caples, King: Teams that avoid Florida signee and likely MLB draftee Brett Morales haven’t found it much easier dealing with Caples. The senior right-hander is 8-0 with a 1.57 ERA in 10 starts. But Caples hasn’t had his best stuff in his most-recent outings: five runs on six hits against Hillsborough and three runs on eight hits against Leto, though both were wins.
Aaron Chesson, Dunedin: Coach Tom Hilbert has a No. 1 and No. 1A with Alex Hart and Chesson. Against Jesuit on Tuesday, he goes with Hart. If Dunedin pulls off the upset, Chesson is ready to go. He pitched 38.2 innings in the regular season and had a 2.35 ERA.
Cameron Churchill/Ryan Wall/Brad Depperman, East Lake: The Eagles have three No. 1s, actually. So whoever pitches against Durant tonight (coach Dan Genna is making that a game-day decision), the other pitchers should be ready to go. Depperman has emerged as a power pitcher who shut down Wharton in the region quarterfinals. Wall has a 1.94 ERA and beat North Port in the district semis. And Churchill got the start against Sarasota Riverview in the district final. All three are righties who throw strikes, though Depperman is the only pure strikeout pitcher.
Michael Del Monte, Clearwater Central Catholic: The junior right-hander is the kind of pitcher who throws strikes and “pitches to contact,’’ as coaches like to say. The Marauders have fielded well all season, so Del Monte’s style has worked. He finished the regular season 6-0 with a 2.44 ERA in 37.2 innings pitched.
Gideon Dunn, Steinbrenner: Warriors coach John Crumbley said, “We don’t have a No. 2. We have a 1A and a 1B.” Fair enough. Dunn, a 6-foot-3 junior, has inspired that sort of confidence by going 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA. Perhaps his most impressive performance of the year came in a 1-0 win over Gaither on March 28, when he allowed only two hits and struck out four.
Chaz Fowler, Durant: No team in Florida wants any part of Tyler Danish, who hasn’t given up an earned run in 2013. But Fowler has been solid as the Cougars’ No. 2, going 7-3 with a 1.41 ERA in 10 starts. The 6-foot-1 lefty has won his past three starts, including a complete game against Wharton in the District 8A-7 tournament final.
Ryan Girard, Wiregrass Ranch: The 6-foot-3 junior has posted a 1.51 ERA with a shutout, and his Bulls have won their past four games with him on the mound. But the last loss was a 4-1 defeat to Steinbrenner, Wiregrass’ region semifinal opponent.
Zach Hessinger, Cambridge Christian: After Alabama signee Nick Eicholtz, Lancers coach Sam Marsonek jokes his No. 2 is “Johnny Wholestaff.” That’s because Cambridge has used a combination of arms, including this senior who is more accomplished at the plate — .471 batting average, 22 RBIs, three homers — than on the mound. Hessinger’s last start came April 1 in a 5-1 win over Brooks-DeBartolo, when he allowed one unearned run and four hits over seven innings.
Justin Kremer, Osceola: Kremer, a senior right-hander, is the No. 2 behind Keith Weisenberg. He is 4-3 this season and relies more on his control than power. Another possibility for the Warriors is Buddy Dougherty, who has been out all season with an elbow injury. Dougherty, a junior, had a good sophomore season and could throw a few innings this week if needed.
Chris McCormick, Mitchell: The 6-foot-1 senior starred in an upset win over Land O’Lakes for the Class 6A, District 10 title by striking out seven in a complete game. He also rescued the Mustangs in the first round of the playoffs by pitching two scoreless innings against Sebring. McCormick has struck out 68 batters in 57.2 innings.
Ryan Nicoll, Springstead: This senior, not Oral Roberts recruit Brandon Brosher, leads the Eagles in ERA (0.91) while posting a 3-0 record. His five innings kept Springstead alive to earn a season-changing 3-2 victory over Land O’Lakes, and he’s allowed only two earned runs in his past five appearances.
Jordan Parnell, Jesuit: A High Point (N.C.) signee, the 6-foot-4 righty might be the area’s most imposing No. 2 option. Parnell throws consistently in the low 90s and with good control, having allowed only one run in six starts this season. In fact, Parnell hasn’t given up more than two hits in any start this spring. And if by chance he’s having an off-day, Jesuit has a plethora of college-ready arms behind him.
Watson Ransom, Tampa Prep: Terrapins interim coach John DeTringo said he doesn’t have a No. 2 because he really doesn’t have a No. 1. “We’ve got three guys who are sort of a 1B,” he said. “Everybody is going into the game with the idea that everyone needs to be ready.” Pressed to choose, DeTringo went with Ransom, who started in Tampa Prep’s 6-4 win over Brooks-DeBartolo in the District 3A-8 final. The 6-foot-2 junior is 5-4 with a 4.03 ERA.
Trae Ratliff, Hernando: USF signee Brandon Lawson has overshadowed Ratliff, a gritty 6-foot right-hander who would be the ace of most staffs. Ratliff has a strong 1.80 ERA with 58 strikeouts and pitched the Leopards to two of their biggest wins: a 4-3 victory over rival Springstead, and a 5-2 triumph over Eustis in the Class 5A, District 7 final. “He’s definitely a top-of-the-line pitcher around the state,” coach Tim Sims said.
Clayton Smith, Tampa Catholic: Before a 6-0 loss to Berkeley Prep in the District 4A-9 final, Smith had won four of his previous five starts. The junior right-hander is 6-2 with a 1.56 ERA in 11 starts, giving the Crusaders a reliable second option. Smith has allowed more than three runs only once — that April 25 defeat to the rival Bucs.
Steven Valentine, Canterbury: The junior right-hander has been an inning eater for the Crusaders. He has thrown 55.2 innings, tops on the team in the regular season. He has a 3.65 ERA and a team-high 59 strikeouts. While Patrick Walsh is the reliable strike thrower, Valentine is just as solid as the No. 2 guy.
7 p.m. Tuesday unless noted
8A: Durant at East Lake
7A: Wiregrass Ranch at Steinbrenner
6A: Citrus at Springstead
6A: Winter Haven at Mitchell
6A: King at Osceola
5A: Eustis at Hernando
5A: Jesuit at Dunedin
4A: Tampa Catholic at Berkeley Prep
3A: Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic at Tampa Prep
3A: Calvary Christian at Clearwater Central Catholic
2A: Winter Haven All Saints’ at Cambridge Christian, 4
2A: Sarasota Christian at Canterbury, 6
Photo: CCC's Michael Del Monte
Compiled by staff writers Joel Anderson, Matt Baker and Rodney Page.