WESLEY CHAPEL — When Sickles last saw Wiregrass Ranch starter Zach Drury in the district championship, the Bull senior was striking out 10 Gryphons, holding them to no runs and no hits.
So the game plan in the rematch?
“We told them we can’t let Zach do what he did to us last time,” Sickles coach Bob Pagano said.
The Gryphons did almost everything right against Drury and the Bulls on Tuesday night, from swinging the bat to running the bases to winning the Class 7A region semifinal 7-1.
Sickles (18-7) pounded out eight hits, stole five bases and ended Drury’s night on the mound after two innings.
By then, Xavier Rodriguez had walked, stolen two bases, tripled in two runs and scored as the Gryphons led 4-1.
“We just had a mentality that we needed to get out here and swing the bats,” Rodriguez said. “Coach said swing hard, swing at good pitches and hit the fastball. That’s what we did.”
Once staked to a 4-1 lead, Sickles starter Shane Haight (5-2) took care of the rest. The lanky 6-4 righty, who balked in the Bulls’ only run in the first inning, pitched a complete-game five-hitter with seven strikeouts, avenging his 1-0 loss in Drury’s no-hitter at districts.
“He only allowed five hits against them in the district championship, so he did exactly what he did the first time,” Pagano said. “I was talking to (Wiregrass coach) Marshall McDougall before the game and he actually said I’d rather face your other pitcher than face this one. He was prophetic. He was right.”
Both of Haight’s losses this year are by 1-0 scores. But he had plenty of help Tuesday. Levi Gilcrease had an RBI single, Troy Bacon was 3-for-3 with two steals and an RBI, and Maddux Faber and Elias Iglesias each had a double and an RBI.
Sickles advances to the region final for the first time since the team made the state semifinals in 1999.