CLEARWATER — Nate Reed struck out the side in the fourth inning, then homered to tie the score and struck out the side again in the fifth.
For a second, the Calvary Christian ace looked invincible.
Then the sixth inning happened.
A one-out error started a string of very fortunate events for Clearwater Central Catholic, which seemed to finally figure out Reed with three consecutive RBI singles to turn a pitcher’s duel into a 7-1 victory in a Class 3A region semifinal.
The sudden turn of events sends CCC (25-4) to West Palm Beach King’s Academy Friday for its sixth region championship game since 2001, with a trip to state on the line.
After retiring his 10th straight hitter to open the bottom of the sixth, Reed (8-4) got Brendan Overton to hit an easy groundball to short.
But the throw sailed into the Calvary Christian dugout, leaving Overton at second.
CCC starting pitcher David Paul was walked intentionally, before catcher and No. 5 hitter Andrew Mink nudged a Reed offering into short rightfield to score Overton and break a 1-all tie.
But the Marauders weren’t done. Andrew Murphy was next, with a two-run single, and pinch-hitter James Hancock Jr. followed with another RBI single.
Another throwing error scored two more runs, giving Paul all the cushion he needed.
“We caught a break, that kind of opened the door,” CCC coach Todd Vaughan said. “My guys just took advantage and got some hits. Mink was huge for us. The at-bats he had before that didn’t look too good, but he did what we needed him to do.”
As did Paul, who allowed just three hits and struck out nine in improving to 9-0 on the season.
Reed’s homer in the fifth that tied the score was the first ball the Warriors (22-8) hit out of the infield, and Jake Richardson’s single the next inning was the only other one to find the outfield.
Paul bore down after giving up the home run, retiring nine of the last 11 batters he faced.
“Well, obviously it got in my head a little bit but I knew I had to keep pitching,” Paul said. “I knew one run wasn’t going to beat a team like that and we had to score more runs, and they were going to need more than one run and I wasn’t going to let that happen.”
8A: East Lake stymied by Durant's Danish
EAST LAKE — Never mind what may have been said over social media, or from the aluminum bleachers, or from the fences along the foul lines, or even in those fleeting moments between fastballs.
Here’s what was said when the game was all over, when Tyler Danish had done what he always does from the mound and pitched Durant to a 3-0 victory over East Lake in their Class 8A region semifinal.
“He’s as good as it gets,” East Lake coach Dan Genna said.
“He’s the best pitcher we’ve faced all year,” East Lake second baseman Doug Rovello said.
“They said, ‘They’re ready for Danish,’ ” Durant coach Butch Valdes said. “You haven’t seen Danish. No one has seen Danish. This kid is special. He really is.”
Danish pitched his eighth complete game of the season Tuesday, allowing two hits, walking three and striking out 14 in a masterful performance against an East Lake lineup that was averaging more than six runs per game.
Durant (23-5) advanced to its second region final in three years.
Standing in the Cougars’ way was East Lake (24-4), which had won eight straight games and eagerly awaited a rematch following its 3-0 loss to Durant in the region quarterfinal last season.
The Eagles had managed to avoid Danish in last year’s game and still failed to produce any offense against then-senior starter Trey Oest.
This time, they weren’t so lucky.
Danish and the Cougars said there was a little more trash talk and banter than in previous games.
“I tried not to notice it,” Durant second baseman Jared Donini said, “but there was smack-talking the whole time.”
Indeed. There was a lively crowd at Lee Byers Field, with both the home and visitors bleachers filled with fans and nearly that many lining the fences along the field — to say nothing of the crowd of major-league scouts behind home plate.
Rovello, who had the only two hits against Danish, said he and his teammates had encouraged their fans to turn out for the game.
“We just promoted it like a fight,” he said.
The teams didn’t strike many blows in the first four innings, as East Lake sophomore starter Ryan Wall nearly matched Danish from the mound. The game was scoreless until only a single out remained in the top of the fifth.
It was then Durant centerfielder Garrett Wright delivered the knockout shot, with runners at first and third base.
Wright singled to shallow left, where the Eagles’ outfielder failed to cleanly field the ball and Donini seized upon the opportunity to score from second.
“When you’ve got Danish in the mound, we know that if we score one run a lot of pressure is taken off,” Wright said. “Then it’s on him.”
The Cougars added two more runs in the sixth, but Danish gave East Lake a sliver of hope by issuing two walks in the bottom of the inning.
With runners at second and third, a newly energized home crowd and cleanup hitter Keegan Maronpot at the plate, the Eagles finally were in position to score — something only one other team (Newsome) had managed all season.
Danish responded with a three-pitch strikeout to end the inning.
“I knew the streak was still there,” said Danish, who kept his ERA at 0.00 for 2013. “But I got backed down into a corner and responded like I have all year.”
6A: Osceola can't slow King bats
SEMINOLE — For four innings Tuesday, King and Osceola were locked in a tight, low-scoring game.
That all changed in the fifth inning.
The Lions’ offense came unhinged. Seemingly every batter was able to hit the ball in the gaps. And the runs came in bunches. By the time the top half of the inning ended, King sent 15 batters up, recorded 10 hits and scored 11 runs.
That outburst was all King needed in a 12-0 victory that was called after five innings because of the 10-run mercy rule. The Lions (24-3), who have won 15 straight, will host Mitchell in Friday’s Class 6A region final.
“I hate to say it, but we were pretty confident,” King coach Jim Macaluso said. “We have a good offensive club, and we started to hit balls that were finding the gaps.”
It didn’t start out that way. Osceola starter Justin Kremer was keeping the Lions at bay, holding them to three hits through four innings.
Trouble was, the Warriors could not do much on offense, either.
Brandon Caples, King’s No. 2 pitcher, allowed just one hit and walked one batter in five innings to improve to 9-0. His performance was big considering the Lions were able to save ace Brett Morales for Friday’s game.
“This wasn’t us gambling and trying to save our ace, though,” Macaluso said. “We have all the faith in Brandon. We’ve stayed with the same rotation and started each pitcher every other game this year.”
Caples was able to cruise by, relying on his off-speed pitching, particularly his curveball.
“I had a little bit of nerves, but once we got a run they all went away,” Caples said. “I got stronger as the game went on.”
He got all the run support he needed in the fifth. Kevin Buckley, Sey Juan Lawrence and Bubby Terp each had two hits in the inning and scored twice.
The Warriors, meanwhile, went through three pitchers. All Osceola coach Stefan Futch could do afterward was shake his head.
“I thought we played the best with what we had,” Futch said. “We were right there for four innings, and I was hoping maybe we could squeeze a run in and stay in it. But give (King) credit. They swung the bats real well in that fifth inning. It seemed like every batter was getting a hit.”
5A: Rocky start grounds Falcons
DUNEDIN — For Jesuit coach Richie Warren, Tuesday night’s Class 5A region semifinal against Dunedin was like old times. During the past three weeks, the Tigers lost two of five games and didn’t score more than five runs in any of them.
But the bats came alive against the Falcons. Jesuit erupted for 16 hits, eight of them for extra bases, in an 11-1 win.
“Sometimes box scores are misleading,” Warren said. “You only score three runs but you hit the ball right at people. Tonight was a step in the right direction. It’s something we’ve been looking forward to. It’s like it was earlier in the year when we were beating teams by 10 runs.”
Jesuit (26-2) wasted no time getting to Dunedin starter Alex Hart. Vincent Miniet led off with a home run to left-centerfield, and it was downhill for the Falcons (18-10) from there.
One out later, Adrian Chacon doubled and Leland Saile walked. With two outs and two on, Daniel Portales tripled home two runs to make it 3-0. In the bottom of the first, Jesuit starter Jordan Parnell needed only four pitches to get three outs. It was that kind of night for Dunedin.
“What hurt was that after they get those three runs, we come back with a four-pitch bottom half,” Dunedin coach Tom Hilbert said.
“We thought that if we could get off to a good start, we’d have a chance. Certainly, we had to play a perfect game. We didn’t do that. A lot of that is because they are such a good team.”
In the second inning, Spencer Trayner had an RBI single and later scored on a Kellen Brown throwing error to first that made it 5-0 Jesuit.
Dunedin had its best chance to cut into the lead in the third. The Falcons loaded the bases with one out. Warren removed Parnell for relief pitcher Ronnie Ramirez.
Ramirez walked Brown to force in a run. But the rally was killed when Aaron Chesson lined to rightfielder Saile, who threw out Trever Jensen at home for the third out.
Jesuit tacked on two runs in the fourth, highlighted by a homer from Evan Cannan, and another in the fifth to take a commanding lead.
And just for good measure, Saile hit a three-run homer in the sixth to make it 11-1.
“We’ve been hitting the ball right at people and not catching any breaks,” Trayner said. “Tonight we caught the breaks. We were all seeing the ball well.”
Trayner was 3-for-5 with an RBI, Miniet 2-for-5, Chacon 3-for-5 with an RBI and Saile 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
Four Jesuit pitchers held Dunedin to seven hits.
2A: Canterbury falls just short
Canterbury could not make it two straight against Sarasota Christian, falling 6-5 in a Class 2A region semifinal. The Crusaders handed the Blazers their only loss of the season in the district final, but the rematch was a different story.
Sarasota Christian took leads of 2-0 and 4-2, but Canterbury rallied to tie both times. The Blazers took a 6-4 lead into the sixth.
Canterbury managed cut the lead to a run in the bottom of the sixth but could not rally again.
Patrick Walsh pitched all seven innings for Canterbury (12-15).
“That was really a good high school baseball game,” Canterbury coach Dave Smith said. “I’m disappointed we didn’t win, but really, this team exceeded expectations this season. We just couldn’t get a couple of those key hits.”
Photo: Jesuit’s Spencer Trayner, left, slides safely into third, beating the tag by Dunedin’s Jack Hamrick during the Tigers’ 11-1 Class 5A region semifinal victory.
Staff writers Joel Anderson, Bob Putnam and Rodney Page contributed to this report.