Class 7A: Wiregrass Ranch (20-9) at Venice (26-3), 7p.m. Friday
Skinny: The Bulls had solidified themselves as one of Pasco County’s top programs but couldn’t break through against Hillsborough foes in the district tournament — until this year. With strong pitching and good defense, Wiregrass has turned the school’s first playoff appearance into a run to the elite eight and a showdown with a Venice team ranked fifth nationally by MaxPreps.
The headliner: Zach Drury. He leads the Bulls with a .386 batting average and 20 RBIs. And he has starred on the mound, becoming one of Pasco County’s elite pitchers with 97 strikeouts. His 103-pitch gem led to an upset over Steinbrenner in the region semifinals.
Supporting cast: Furman commit Michael Campoamor (.371 average) and sophomore Shane Bucenell (10 stolen bases) have been among the top offensive threats. Drury’s younger brother, Austin, struck out 38 in his first 30 innings to fortify the Bulls’ rotation alongside Ryan Girard. “He’s come on huge …” coach Jeff Swymer said of the younger Drury, “to the point where he’s going to be starting a regional final game as a sophomore.”
Unsung hero: Jackson Cornelius. The junior has scored only one run but has played every defensive position but catcher. “He does anything you can ask him to do,” Swymer said.
Quotable: “I think our kids are just hot right now. We’re so young … we don’t know any better. We don’t know we’re not supposed to be in the regional finals.” — Swymer
Class 6A: Mitchell (24-5) at King (24-3), 7 p.m. Friday
Skinny: The Mustangs’ fourth playoff appearance has been their best after one postseason win in the previous three chances. Mitchell has been strong in its past four games, allowing only five runs since the start of the district tournament. Scot Wilcox’s club outscored Sebring and Winter Haven 11-1 in the postseason to advance to a showdown with King and UF-bound ace Brett Morales.
The headliner: Cobi Johnson. The Florida State commit was an all-North Suncoast pick as a sophomore and is playing even better this spring (.429 batting average, 1.68 ERA, 103 strikeouts). He shut out Winter Haven with a six-hit complete game in the semifinals.
Supporting cast: INF Marcus Begg leads the team with a .439 average and seven home runs while recording a hit in 23 of the past 24 games. Christopher McCormick has shined on the mound with a 2.18 ERA and a victory over Land O’Lakes for the Class 6A, District 10 title.
Unsung hero: OF Eddie Goscicki has hits in 10 of his past 11 games and boasts a .378 average. Piedmont signee PJ Dejesus has quietly knocked in 28 runs, and Blake Hart is one of the team’s leaders with a .367 average.
Photo: Mitchell's Cobi Johnson