LUTZ — Wiregrass Ranch junior Zach Drury had the utmost respect for nationally ranked Steinbrenner before he took the mound Tuesday night. Two hours later, Warriors coach John Crumbley thought just as highly of Drury, whose two-hit shutout led the Bulls to a stunning 4-0 victory in the Class 7A region semifinals.
“You got to give Zach Drury credit,” Crumbley said. “He came out with a desire and (Wiregrass Ranch) made plays for him. We’re a pretty good offensive team, and he made us not very good today. That’s a tribute to him.”
Drury allowed doubles in the third and fourth innings as he avenged two earlier losses to Steinbrenner (24-3), MaxPreps’ No. 16 nationally ranked team that had beaten Wiregrass Ranch (20-9) in three previous meetings. The Bulls will travel to Venice on Friday for a berth in the state tournament.
“This game meant so much,” Drury said. “(Steinbrenner) is the best team I’ve ever pitched against. All I had to do was throw strikes and get the leadoff batter out.”
Sixty-one of Drury’s 103 pitches were strikes, including first-pitch strikes to 19 of 30 batters. The right-hander struck out five and walked four, and induced 11 flyball outs.
“I threw fastballs and curves, and a couple of changeups,” Drury said.
Wiregrass Ranch snapped a scoreless tie with two fifth-inning runs against loser Gideon Dunn. Michael Campoamor’s double scored Chris Parra, who had reached on an infield error, and a single by Shane Bucenell (three hits) plated Campoamor. The Bulls added runs in the final two innings. Parra doubled and scored on an Austin Drury sacrifice fly, and Kai Maynor came home on a Ryan Girard single.
Steinbrenner stranded nine baserunners, five in scoring position. Zach Drury wiggled out of his biggest jam in the sixth when the Warriors loaded the bases with one out. He got Chase Turner to pop to short and threw out Danny Rodriguez on a comebacker to the mound.
“I’ve pitched a lot of good games,” Zach Drury said. “But this is the biggest game I’ve ever pitched in. It feels so good.
5A: Arroyo's blast powers Leopards' comeback
BROOKSVILLE — When Christian Arroyo stepped to the plate in one of the biggest at-bats of his high school career, he wasn’t thinking about the scouts watching him from behind, the future college teammate glaring ahead or the one-run deficit staring Hernando in the face.
“You’ve got one job,” Arroyo thought. “Hit the crap outta this ball.”
Did he ever.
The Florida signee blasted a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth to lead a 3-1 comeback victory over Eustis in Tuesday’s Class 5A region semifinal at Emerson Field. The win puts the Leopards (24-5) in the elite eight for the fourth consecutive season and gives them a home game Friday against St. Johns Creekside with a trip to state at stake.
“The kid’s a star,” Hernando ace Brandon Lawson said of Arroyo. “We’re gonna see his name in the bigs one day.”
The game’s other future Gator looked like the star early for Eustis (20-9). Panther lefty Alex Hagner didn’t allow a hit through four scoreless innings while striking out seven.
Lawson, a USF signee, was equally impressive. He loaded the bases with one out in the first but settled down, allowing his only run on a passed ball. The senior right-hander scattered four hits across his 126-pitch complete game while striking out 11.
“He’s a pitcher,” Hernando coach Tim Sims said. “That’s the best thing I can say about him.”
Lawson pitched well enough to keep his team in the game until a fifth-inning rally. No. 9 hitter Garrett Treverton came through with what Sims called his biggest at-bat of the year by drawing a walk on a 3-2 count. That put the tying run on base for Arroyo, a potential high pick in next month’s amateur MLB draft.
Hagner hung an off-speed pitch up, and Arroyo blasted it over the leftfield wall for his 11th home run of the season. As the shortstop crossed home plate to celebrate with teammates, he pumped his fists and tried to rip open his shirt like Superman.
“I don’t even know what I did,” Arroyo said. “I probably looked like an idiot.”
The Leopards tacked on another run in the inning with Justin Young’s RBI single, and Lawson allowed only one baserunner in the final two frames to improve to 11-0.
More importantly, Hernando overcame five consecutive losses to Eustis to steal the biggest games in the rivalry: last month’s Class 5A, District 7 final and Tuesday night’s playoff contest.
“We made things work when it needed to happen,” Lawson said. “The season’s just starting now.”
6A: Springstead gets season sweep
SPRING HILL — The last time Springstead beat Citrus in the district final two weeks ago, Eagles coach Jim Diven talked about how difficult it is to beat the same team three times.
Diven’s program upped the ante Tuesday night in a Class 6A region semifinal, knocking off the Hurricanes 9-3 for a fourth straight win.
The road to Springstead’s first region final berth wasn’t an easy one. Citrus starter Ben Wright shut down the Eagle bats for the first four frames, tossing one-hit shutout ball over that span.
In the fifth, Springstead (18-8) woke up. In an inning that saw 15 batters come to the plate and three pitchers on the mound for Citrus (14-15), the Eagles put a nine-spot on the scoreboard. Trent Wyzykowski led off the inning with a ground ball to third that Tyler
Beagan booted, then threw away. Everything broke down from there.
“That’s just what we’ve been doing lately,” Diven said. “We get behind, but these guys never quit.”
Wyzykowski, hustling hard down the line, hurt his back on the play and was replaced by Blake Laferty. He didn’t return, but is considered day to day as the team prepares for the next round.
Springstead hurler Ryan Nicoll held his own throughout the evening, tossing a complete game with three earned runs and eight hits.
Because it was the third time this season he had faced the Hurricanes, Nicoll decided to add a new wrinkle to his arsenal, dropping down to throw sidearm sporadically throughout the game.
“I mixed it up and wanted to give them something different they hadn’t seen before,” Nicoll said. “I was working on throwing sidearm in the bullpen, and it went well, so I tried it in the game. I think it helped.”
6A: Mustangs’ focus pays off with a big win
TRINITY — Confidence is on high around the Mitchell baseball program after putting together a 7-0 victory over Winter Haven on Tuesday night.
The Mustangs came into the game feeling good after a narrow victory over Sebring in the region quarterfinals.
They were able to rely on another big performance from ace Cobi Johnson on the mound and at the plate, where a pair of RBI doubles gave him the run support he needed. He finished off the Blue Devils with a complete-game shutout, striking out seven and allowing just six hits.
“We knew they had a good team and you could see our focus during practice this week,” Johnson said. “We were all calm but excited at the same time and that feeling just led to a good game. It felt good to help myself out at the plate. I was just waiting on a fastball and when the kid threw one I didn’t miss.”
Johnson finished 3-for-3 on the night at the plate, an area his teammates were able to provide plenty of help thanks to solid base running and timely situational hitting. Senior Eddie Goscicki finished 0-4 on the night yet drove in a pair of runs in the game.
Senior leadoff hitter Christopher McCormick also played a big part, getting on base in three of four appearances at the plate and scoring all three times.
The Mustangs move on to face King in the region final, a game that promises to test their wits as they have never been this far in the playoffs under coach Scot Wilcox.
“King is an experienced team and have a great coach, so it’s going to push us,” Wilcox said. “We have a lot of confidence right now though. The way the guys are practicing and carrying themselves, I think we feel good all around and tonight just further displayed that.”
Photo: Springstead's Ryan Nicoll
Staff writer Matt Baker and correspondents David Rice and Derek J. LaRiviere contributed to this report.