TAMPA — The best season in Mitchell history ended Friday night against one of the best prep pitchers in the country.
King ace and Florida signee Brett Morales struck out a school-record 17 batters to lead his Lions to a 4-1 home victory in the Class 6A region final.
“What can ya say?” Mustangs coach Scot Wilcox said.
Morales, a top high school pitching prospect for next month’s MLB amateur draft, dominated Mitchell (24-6) from the start, mixing some of the best curveballs and changeups of his 11-1 season with a fastball that touched 94 mph.
He struck out two batters early before Mustangs slugger Eddie Goscicki smashed a 2-1 pitch far over the 335-foot rightfield fence to give Mitchell a 1-0 lead in the second.
“He made a good swing,” Morales said.
But the 6-foot-2 right-hander settled down from there to send King (25-3) to its second state appearance in the past four years and the third in program history.
His only hiccups came in the top of the fourth, when FSU commit Cobi Johnson doubled and Goscicki walked with one out. Morales struck out the final two batters to end the threat.
“He’s a guy tonight that has to say, ‘Get on my back, and I’m gonna take you to Fort Myers,’ ” King coach Jim Macaluso said. “And he did it.”
Mitchell mistakes also helped the Lions pack their bags for a showdown with Lynn Haven Mosley and spoil a solid performance from starter Chris McCormick.
Devon Pedro singled and scored on a Tanner Williams hit and a Mustangs error in the top of the third. Another error on a grounder let Williams score, and one of Morales’ two singles gave the Lions a 3-1 lead.
One more error in the next inning extended King’s lead to three.
“It’s hard to make that up against a kid like Morales,” Wilcox said.
The Mustangs never could.
Morales threw 70 of his 99 pitches for strikes and only allowed one base runner in the final three innings — PJ DeJesus, who blooped a single to right in the seventh. But Morales forced Alex Torres to ground out on the next pitch to end the game.
Despite a sour end to the spring, Wilcox said his team took big steps forward this year, making it back to the playoffs after a one-year break and knocking off out-of-county foes Sebring and Winter Haven.
“Within our county, we’ve always had that confidence,” Wilcox said. “Absolutely we can build on this.”
6A: Controversial end for Springstead
ORLANDO — They were six outs away.
Then the rain came.
Springstead (19-9) was at bat with two outs and holding a 9-6 lead over host Orlando Edgewater (17-6) at the top of the sixth inning when heavy rain started to fall. The Class 6A region final game was halted. When the rain finished a half hour later, the damage was done.
Edgewater’s field, which has no lights and is believed to be the lowest point on the school’s campus, was flooded. Water pooled along the bases and saturated the home plate and mound.
The game was called for Edgewater nearly an hour later. Due to Florida High School Athletic Association rules, the game score reverted back to the score at the end of the previous inning. At the end of the fifth inning, Edgewater held a 6-5 lead. It was the first time Edgewater had led during the game.
“These kids have been playing their hearts out just like everyone else and they got screwed,” Springstead coach Jim Diven told a Hernando Today reporter before Springstead principal Susan Duval disallowed further comments from coaches and players.
Edgewater scored in the fifth inning after Zach Vandergrift hit a grand slam off of starting pitcher Brandon Brosher. Brosher had walked the three previous batters.
The following inning, Brosher answered with a triple that drove in runs from Trent Wyzykowski, Ryan Nicoll and Kyle Cottilletta. One batter after Blake Laferty scored off a wild pitch, the rain started and the game was delayed.
Edgewater coaches attempted to rake the water off the flooded areas. After a heated exchange with an Edgewater official, Diven attempted to help rake the field.
As the delay progressed, tensions rose in the crowd. Edgewater officials called local police officials for crowd control. The stadium was cleared before the decision to call the game for Edgewater was announced.
Diven said they will look into an appeal.
7A: Early deficit deflates Bulls
VENICE — Wiregrass Ranch knew it would need to play a perfect game to defeat nationally ranked Venice. In Friday’s Class 7A region final, the Bulls’ performance was anything but perfect as the Indians took a lead in the first inning and never looked back en route to a 6-0 victory.
“You can tell why they’re here and have those state championship flags,” Bulls coach Jeff Swymer said. “They’re a well-coached team and very organized.”
The Bulls (20-10) went down in order to start the game while the Indians manufactured a run in the bottom of the first. Austin Drury walked leadoff hitter Dalton Guthrie. He was sacrificed to second and scored on a double by Michael Rivera.
Wiregrass had its best opportunity in the second thanks to some Indians miscues. Shane Bucenell reached on an error. Alex Fernandez hit a grounder to the shortstop, who cut down Bucenell at third. Another Venice error allowed Ryan Girard to reach and moved Fernandez up to second with one out. A wild pitch put runners on second and third but Tyson Albert struck out the next two to end the threat.
“You like to get runs early but we didn’t have any good at-bats,” Swymer said. “We didn’t play very well at all.”
Venice added another run in the second using the same formula. Ryan Miller singled, was sacrificed to second and scored on a fielder’s choice. Chris Parra snared a line drive and doubled off the runner to get the Bulls out of the inning.
“In a big game like this, you want to put up zeroes to set the tone,” Swymer said. “They got those two runs early and that kind of deflated us.”
Venice added two runs each in the third and fourth innings to put the game out of reach. The Bulls didn’t record their first hit until Drury singled in the sixth. Alex Goebel added a single in the seventh.
“I’m exceptionally proud of our young team,” Swymer said. “I told them this is the level of our program and now we got to improve.”
5A: Leopards can't find their rhythm
BROOKSVILLE — Tim Sims guided his sixth Hernando team to the region final at Emerson Field on Friday night. In that span, he has succeeded in making it to the state semifinals only once.
The Leopards won’t be making a return trip this year either as St. Johns Creekside showed up to eliminate Hernando 7-2 in the Class 5A final in front of the home crowd.
The Knights (22-10) jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning when catcher Matt Allen hit his first homer of the season. The junior hit a letter-high pitch the opposite way off the scoreboard to begin the fireworks off Hernando starter Trae Ratliff.
Ratliff came in with a 6-1 record and a 1.80 ERA, but he struggled with control early and Creekside took advantage.
“You can only coach between the ears so much,” Sims said. “Trae was really pumped up to be in the region final and he was overthrowing.”
Although the Leopards (24-6) got one run back in the bottom of the first when Florida commit and MLB prospect Christian Arroyo crossed the plate, Hernando stranded the bases loaded. The senior went 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and two runs scored in his final high school game.
Allen nailed an RBI double in his second at-bat to start a three-run Knights outburst in the third, and the team followed with two more in the fourth off Ratliff.
Creekside southpaw Michael Gray started the game a little wild but settled down. He scattered eight hits, walking two and striking out eight. He sandwiched an earned run in the first and seventh between scoreless frames.
Picture: Mitchell's Christopher McCormick
Times correspondents Nicole Saavedra, Nathan Cowan and Derek J. LaRiviere contributed to this report.