BRANDON — Every time Haines City pitcher Rob Whalen took the mound Wednesday, five or six radar guns would pop up to track his performance. And every time Brandon’s Chris Toney came on, the guns went back down.
But it was Toney who turned in the two-hit, complete-game shutout with seven strikeouts. And it’s Brandon, thanks to a 1-0 win, advancing to the Class 7A region semifinals Tuesday against Riverview.
“The scouting report on Chris Toney is out there and open, and if you’re an opposing hitter and you look at it, you go, ‘I can hit this,’ ” said Eagles coach Matt Stallbaumer. “And then you get up there, and nothing is the same, from the location to the pitch.”
Toney said he felt as sharp Wednesday night has he has all year, with his 85 mph fastball, changeup and cutter working well.
Meanwhile, Whalen, an FAU commit, hit 90 several times with his fastball and located his 74 mph curveball for strikes. The Eagles (17-8), though, pushed across the only run they would need thanks to three hits in the fourth inning, though it did come with a scare.
With one out and runners on second and third, freshman Branden Wilborn, pinch running for Michael Caballero, was caught off guard (and off the base) at third by Whalen for the second out.
“Almost devastating,” Stallbaumer said.
But after Toney walked to load the bases, senior Alex Gittens was able to poke an RBI single on an awkward hop past the second baseman, scoring the game’s only run.
7A: Freedom slumps vs. Seminole pitching
SEMINOLE — There were times when Jordan Doyle was off his game.
The Seminole pitcher allowed two hits. He walked a few batters. And he hit another.
But when the Warhawks needed a big pitch, Doyle would reach back and throw one that disappeared below an unsuspecting hitter’s bat.
Pretty soon, it was the seventh inning, and Doyle was still out there, still mowing them down.
Freedom had a fighting chance against Doyle’s worst pitches. But the Patriots were no match for Doyle’s best, and as a result, Seminole cruised to a 6-1 victory in Wednesday’s Class 7A region quarterfinal game.
“I didn’t have my best stuff early on,” Doyle said. “I took me a while to get relaxed and have more velocity on my pitches. I got better as the game went on, but that’s something I’ll have to work on my next start.”
Seminole (24-4) went ahead 2-0 in the first inning. Alex McGathey and Scott Withrow, who each had singles, both scored. Freedom cut the deficit to 2-1 in the fourth inning when Kyle Schindler, who walked, advanced to second on a groundout and stole third, scored on a groundout by Chandler Chapman.
The Warhawks broke open the game by scoring two runs each in the fourth and fifth innings.
Doyle and the defense took care of the rest. Doyle finished with six strikeouts. He allowed just three base runners in the final four innings and retired the last six batters he faced.
“We had to scrap our way to some runs early on,” Seminole coach Jeff Pincus said. “Those are the things you have to do at this time of year to win some games. Doyle finished much stronger than he started, and the defense came up with some great plays.”
7A: Gaither off to fast start
TAMPA — Gaither got the bats going early against Clearwater, getting seven hits and four runs to cover the first two innings and finishing with seven runs and 11 hits for a 7-2 win. Both Clearwater runs came on errors, one in the second and one in the seventh inning.
Gaither senior Evan Gainey had a strong outing, going seven complete innings with no earned runs, three hits and five strikeouts. He walked four and let one in on a wild pitch but escaped the toughest spot of the game in the fifth inning on a fantastic infield play. Sophomore Randy Oliva got the unassisted double play, stepping on third base and zipping the ball over to second.
The Cowboys nearly turned a triple play as senior second baseman Cody Robinson threw to first, just after the runner.
“Evan pitched tough tonight,” said Cowboys coach Frank Permuy. “He didn’t have his best stuff, but he was tough when we needed him to be.”
The top half of the Cowboys batting order was ruthless. Leadoff hitter Eddie Pastrana was 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs. No. 3 hitter Oscar Mercado was 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI, and designated hitter Matt Frey crushed a triple to right that scored two in the first inning.
“I feel like we’re in the zone right now,” said Pastrana. “I really feel like we’ve got it this year.”
7A: Drawdy’s one-hitter fuels Riverview
At Lakeland, USF-bound senior ace Dylan Drawdy’s one-hitter set up a Sharks-Brandon rematch in Tuesday night’s region semifinals after a 3-0 victory over Lakeland George Jenkins.
The Eagles’ lone hit came on a bloop single with two out in the sixth. Drawdy, who got all the run support he would need in the fifth, fanned seven.
“He was really locating his fastball in and out and just pounded a lot of fastballs at them,” Sharks coach Bill Leiby said. “They just swung early. They were aggressive.”
Sophomore C.J. Lowe’s two-run double capped Riverview’s three-run fifth. Mike Botto, who led off with a walk, scored the inning’s first run on Chris Gauthier’s single.
5A: Jesuit holds steady
TAMPA — Jesuit ace Lance McCullers pitched out of a serious threat in the top of the seventh Wednesday.
With the bases loaded and two out, Bradenton Bayshore grounded to third, coming up empty and preserving Jesuit’s 5-0 Class 5A region quarterfinal victory.
“(McCullers) has been great all year,” Jesuit coach Richie Warren said. “He just bears down and doesn’t get rattled, and even in that last situation, still goes out there and throws strikes.”
Jesuit (26-1) took a 2-0 lead in the second as a result of Bayshore mistakes. Max Beermann scored from third on a wild pitch by Tyler Shopperley, followed by Conor O’Brien crossing on an error to short.
Nolan Schultz propelled the Tiger offense in the third with an opposite-field, two-run double. Bayshore’s defense shifted left during Schultz’s at-bat, creating a massive gap on the right side.
“They were putting a weird shift on me, so I just focused, stayed inside the ball and hit it to rightfield,” said Schultz, finishing 2-for-3 with two doubles and a run. “I was trying to come up big.”
Beermann added an RBI single, making the score 5-0 Tigers through three innings.
Bayshore (14-14) stranded runners in scoring position during the fourth and fifth innings with McCullers staying composed, ending Bruin scoring opportunities with key strikeouts.
“They did a good job of putting the bat on the ball when the ball was over the plate, and I tip my cap to them for that, but I was confident in my stuff like I have been all season,” McCullers said.
5A: Jenkins, Robinson shock Dunedin
DUNEDIN — Josh Jenkins had an ice pack on his left shoulder and a huge smile on his face after pitching and hitting Robinson to a 4-3, eight-inning win over Dunedin on Wednesday night in a Class 5A region quarterfinal.
Jenkins pitched seven innings, gave up six hits and three runs and also went 2-for-5 with a leadoff triple in the eighth to lead the Knights. As a reward, Robinson plays Jesuit for the fourth time this season in Tuesday’s semifinals.
“I couldn’t feel any better,” Jenkins said. “I haven’t been in the playoffs before so this is great.”
This was Robinson’s first region appearance in six years. It didn’t start off well when Dunedin (19-7) scored all three of its runs in the first inning. Robinson (12-13) got two runs back in the second on an RBI triple from Darius Autry and an RBI single from Mario Giovanetti. After a short rain delay, the Knights tied the score in the third when an error by the shortstop allowed Jacquari Mattox to score.
“Our big second inning got the momentum back on our side,” Jenkins said. “I just wanted to keep giving us a chance. I needed to stop walking people and let them put the ball in play.”
Robinson coach Kevin McCray said he will not pitch Jenkins against Jesuit on Tuesday. But he loved the effort the senior gave.
“I’ve been here for two years now and that’s the kind of effort that kid gives every time out there,” McCray said. “He gives you everything he has.”
3A: Terps get through with ease
Senior left-hander Nick Adams tossed a complete-game three-hitter, propelling host Tampa Prep (17-9) 7-0 over Fort Meade. Tyler Jarrell and Peter Dragna each had a pair of hits and an RBI. Freshman Matt Hodges added an RBI double.
Photo: Believing he beat the tag by Seminole's Scott Withrow (24), Freedom's Eric Schindler (31) reacts after being called out at second because of batter interference with the catcher during Seminole's 6-1 win over Freedom in the Class 7A region quarterfinals.
Staff writers Bob Putnam, Joey Knight and Rodney Page and correspondents Andy Warrener and Basil Spyridakos contributed to this report.