TARPON SPRINGS — Michael Dunnigan is known as a pitcher with excellent control, allowing just seven walks all season. So it was a bit unsettling for the Tarpon Springs right-hander to walk the first two batters he faced in Thursday’s Class 6A region quarterfinal against Sebring.
But Dunnigan quickly regained command. So did the Spongers, who jumped out to an early lead and held on for a 4-0 victory.
It is Tarpon Springs’ first playoff victory since 1996 and just the fourth overall.
“Dunnigan struggled with his command,” Spongers coach Dickie Hart said. “He wasn’t always on. But he battled and fought and trusted his defense and got the job done. We have to do a better job offensively and capitalize with runners in scoring position.
“But we’ll take it.”
After walking the first two batters, Dunnigan retired the next three batters he faced. He finished with a six-hit shutout and struck out seven.
“I did not have my best stuff,” Dunnigan said. “I threw three curveballs in the dirt. I think I was rushing and a little pumped up at the start of the game. I just had to slow down.”
The Spongers (24-4) struggled offensively with two hits. But they stayed patient, drawing eight walks. Tarpon also took advantage of three errors, all of which led to runs. In the first inning, the Spongers had four of their first five batters reach base and scored three runs.
The only extra-base hit came from Brenden Overton, who broke the school record with his 13th double this season. Tarpon’s defense helped preserve the shutout by picking off a runner at third in the fourth inning and with a strong throw home that kept a runner at third in the fifth. In all, Sebring left nine stranded.
“I knew my teammates would have my back,” Dunnigan said. “They came up with great plays all night.”
King 6, Osceola 2: Exactly one month ago, King was 9-8. Since then the Lions have won nine straight, including a 6-2 win over Osceola to send them to the Class 6A region semifinal.
“It’s not one thing,” coach Jim Macaluso said about the streak. “We’ve had good starting pitching, we’ve swung the bat better from the middle down, and we’ve played really good defense, catching the ball behind our pitchers. It’s a little bit of everything, and one big thing is confidence.”
The two runs the Warriors scored — the last one on a wild pitch with two out in the seventh — were the first the Lions (19-8) have given up this postseason.
Durant 3, East Lake 0: Nothing was going to stop Durant pitcher Trey Oest against East Lake. Not a flu bug that forced him to the hospital on Sunday. Not a one-hour, four-minute power outage delay. And certainly not the East Lake bats.
Oest hurled a two-hit complete-game shutout for the Cougars (16-9).
“I knew I’d be a little sluggish but my team gave me the runs we needed,” Oest said. “I was just about dead on Sunday. I needed to get IVs. I missed school on Monday. It’s the sickest I’ve ever been. But I wasn’t going to miss this game.”
Oest was locked in a pitcher’s duel with East Lake starter Eric Hanhold for the first four innings. Both pitchers plowed through the opponent’s lineup, but East Lake ran into trouble in the top of the fourth.
Durant’s Luke Heyer led off the inning with a double and got to third on a wild pitch. With two outs, Brett Ducker hit a grounder to shortstop Nick Mazzoni, who bobbled the ball and was unable to make a play, which allowed Heyer to score.
A walk and a base hit pushed Ducker to third. Then a Hanhold wild pitch allowed Ducker to score.
Oest got two outs in the bottom of the fourth, then the lights went out. When the game resumed, Oest stayed on the mound and got the third out. Hanhold was replaced by Tyler Ramsey.
“I was coming back in,” Oest said. “It was a big game and I really wanted this win.”
Oest carried a no hitter into the sixth inning. It was spoiled when Justin DiSanto doubled to right-centerfield with two outs. Oest got out of that jam, and his teammates gave him one more run in the top of the seventh.
Tyler Danish reached with one out on another error by Mazzoni. With two outs, Heyer singled Danish home from second.
East Lake got two on in the bottom of the seventh, but Oest struck out Tyler Neuhaus to end the game.
“(Oest) did a phenomenal job, but that’s what we’ve been getting from him for four years,” Durant coach Butch Valdes said.
All three of Durant’s runs were unearned. Hanhold and Ramsey scattered seven hits and struck out nine.
“Hanhold and Ramsey pitched well,” East Lake coach Dan Genna said. “You just knew it was going to be a pitcher’s duel. One team was going to give up a big inning. It was us. But, hey, that’s a good team. That team will probably go another two rounds.”
Canterbury 15, Naples First Baptist 2: Canterbury traveled 2 1/2 hours to its region quarterfinal Thursday, and the bus trip turned out to be the longest and hardest part of the Crusaders’ day.
Canterbury blasted the First Baptist Academy of Naples for 11 runs in the first two innings en route to an easy 15-2 win in Class 2A.
Canterbury (13-6) chased First Baptist starter Robbie Emerson after 1 1/3 innings. He gave up only five hits but wild pitches, walks and errors allowed the Crusaders to go ahead 11-0 after only 1 1/2 innings.
Canterbury starter Harrison Hall pitched a complete game, which was halted after five innings due to the mercy rule.
“We got off to a good start. We got a great combination of hitting and pitching,” said Canterbury coach Dave Smith. “Once we got a 5-0 lead, it sort of affects the other team. You could see First Baptist drop their heads a little bit. We were able to hit the ball all over the place.”
Canterbury got more than enough runs before there was even an out. In the first, Richie McClure led off by reaching on an infield error then Jake Holsinger was hit by a pitch. After Holsinger was forced out at second with McClure reaching third and Dasean Thomas reaching first, Hall was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Dalton Hughes then pounded a double to score two.
David Rodica followed with a single to score two more. One out later David Siegel dropped an RBI single to make it 5-0 after the first half-inning. After that the rout was on.
“We set the tone very early here today,” Smith said. “With the region now here, we have developed a sense of urgency. Obviously, if we just lose once, our season is over. So we have to keep focused the rest of the way from now on.”
Staff writers Rodney Page and Laura Keeley and correspondent Thomas P. Corwin contributed to this report.