TAMPA — Wharton pitching coach Bob Adams had the recipe for success in Class 8A, District 7 play figured out this week: pitching and defense, and occasionally some offense. Throughout the postseason the Wildcats have stuck to that, winning their past three games in extra innings, the past two in 12 innings.
Tuesday, Wharton seemed destined for another extra-inning affair until timely hits by Ryan Lawson and Reed Gray with two out in the bottom of the seventh, along with quick base‑running from pinch-runner Milton Figeurou, were enough to squeeze across that one run the Wildcats needed to beat Durant 1-0 in walkoff fashion.
In a season of firsts — first district title (1-0, 12-inning win over Durant on April 26), first region playoff win (2-1, 12-inning win over Sarasota Riverview) — Wharton adds one more: first berth in the Class 8A region final.
“You’re down to your second out, and Reed’s due, they’re all due, and he hits it out there,” coach Scott Hoffman said of Gray’s winning single to centerfield. “We just wanted a bleeder, a little bleeder, a passed ball, something.”
“I knew his stuff was dirty,” Gray said of Durant pitcher Tyler Danish, who struck out nine. “He threw a fastball, probably the one thing I could hit, and I got it.”
Durant (16-10) had its chance in the top of the seventh. Wharton pitcher Collin Woody, who wasn’t feeling his best — “I couldn’t really catch my breath at all; my arm felt fine, but I felt like I was out of breath so I couldn’t really put my body into anything,” he said — walked the bases full with two out. He responded with a three-pitch strikeout.
“At some point and time we’ve got to score a run to win a game,” Durant coach Butch Valdes said among a stunned team that boasts 11 seniors. “And we didn’t execute like we were supposed to. That’s the frustration.”
On the other side of the field there was nothing but joy as Wharton (21-8) earned the right to continue its historic run.
“Before the season I was like, ‘Man, we’ve got a good team,’ but I never really thought this could happen,” Gray said. “It’s the great state of Florida, the teams are fantastic, our districts insane. It’s been fun.”
7A: Gaither offense spreads the wealth
TAMPA — Gaither batted around two of Pinellas County’s best pitchers Tuesday, scoring six runs on nine hits, while getting solid pitching and defense that only yielded one run and two hits — all from the same Warhawk batter — to prevail 6-1 in a Class 7A region semifinal.
“They came up in critical spots and hit it,” Seminole coach Jeff Pincus said. “They just out-played us.”
The Cowboys did indeed get hits when it mattered but not from the places one might expect. Sure, junior Oscar Mercado and senior Eddie Pastrana combined for a couple runs but the bottom third of the lineup, seniors Chris Valdes-Torres, Cody Robinson and Jacob Gowen, combined for three hits and four of the Cowboys’ RBIs.
Gowen got the critical hit in the fourth inning when he came up with bases loaded and one out.
His single to centerfield cracked the game open, making it 5-0. Seminole senior Jordan Doyle was edgy after giving up a run in the second and third innings. A base hit and a walk started off the fourth and sent the Seminole coaches to the mound.
Doyle hit the next batter, then Gowen got his big hit. The Cowboys got one more in that inning and got to junior pitcher Alex McGathey, who walked four and gave up another run in his two innings of work.
Valdes-Torres made a diving catch in rightfield to extinguish a hit in the fifth. Pastrana went over the fence chasing a foul ball in the second inning. The Cowboys only made one fielding error and got a great effort from senior right-hander Evan Gainey, who went seven innings, fanning seven and walking five.
“We took a lot of batting practice, we worked a lot of situations, two-strike counts just trying to make contact and we did that tonight,”
Cowboys coach Frank Permuy said. “I told them, ‘They’re only that good on paper.’ ”
7A: Eagles ace Toney has Sharks’ number
BRANDON — Two runs were all that Brandon and starter Chris Toney needed in a 2-0 win over Riverview for the Class 7A, District 8 championship. The magic number was two again in Tuesday’s region semifinal.
A 2-1 win extended the season for Brandon, which won three of four meetings with the Sharks. Toney, who allowed one earned run and four hits Tuesday, has given up just one run and seven hits in two complete games against the Sharks.
“I think they’ve had enough of Chris Toney,” Brandon coach Matt Stallbaumer said.
Riverview pitcher Dylan Drawdy matched Toney pitch for pitch, allowing two unearned runs and scattering four hits.
“Me and Drawdy always pitch good against one another,” Toney said. “When we scored those two runs we were hyped. They got me the two runs I needed.”
The Eagles (18-8) capitalized on shortstop Justin Rose’s error to score twice in the bottom of the second inning. Adam Sass singled and Eric Hinostroza was hit by a pitch with both runners racing home on Rose’s fielding miscue.
The Sharks (18-9) got their lone run in the sixth on Chris Gauthier’s RBI single. Drawdy drew his third leadoff walk and came in on Gauthier’s base hit. Another run might have scored but Sass’ errant throw to first base after fielding a bunt between home and third base was ruled foul.
“That could’ve been a game changer,” Stallbaumer said.
6A: Sloppy fifth inning derails King
TAMPA — King struggled to overcome an error-filled fifth inning Tuesday in a 6-4 loss to Lakewood Ranch in the Class 6A region semifinals.
“I thought we did a few things we don’t normally do,” King coach James Macaluso said. “We had some mental mistakes.”
The Lions squared the game at 2 in the fourth on a sacrifice fly to centerfield by Bubby Terp, followed by an RBI single from Kevin Buckley. But King (17-9) couldn’t sustain the momentum.
Lakewood Ranch (23-6) loaded the bases on a single, error and walk to start the fifth. King starter Brett Morales hit Brandon King for one run. Bryan Vanvracken cracked a sharp liner to Devon Pedro, who quickly threw to home for the assumed out.
The home plate umpire didn’t see it that way.
“I had my foot on the bag and (Pedro) threw it home,” catcher Ian Lynch said. “It was a tough play, and I thought I had my foot on the bag the whole time.”
The contested run was a turning point for the Mustangs, who scored twice more for a 6-2 lead.
“I think it changed the momentum of the game from that point,” Lynch said.
Lynch started a late rally during the bottom of the fifth with an RBI single to centerfield. The senior also drove in Keon Barnum on an RBI single in the seventh, finishing 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run.
“It was a good year and I’m proud of the guys,” Macaluso said. “We just came up short.”
5A: Jesuit pitching shines vs. Robinson
TAMPA — Jesuit is one step closer to its third straight trip to state after cruising to a 10-1 victory over Robinson in the Class 5A region semifinals Tuesday night.
The Tigers (27-1) improve to 4-0 this season against the Knights, displaying their dominance once again with a 14-strikeout performance by John Kilichowski and Spencer Trayner. Kilichowski got the start and finished with eight strikeouts. He left after 41/3 innings in the interest of saving his arm for the next round.
“Power pitching has been what we do all season,” Jesuit coach Richie Warren said. “We average giving up less than one run because of how deep our pitching staff is. We’re trying to keep our guys between 60 and 70 pitches, and hopefully now he can give us a inning if we need it on Friday.”
The Knights committed four errors and allowed seven stolen bases. Robinson’s biggest offensive struggle was bringing runners home; the Knights left eight on base.
The Tigers got on the board in the second inning thanks to two Robinson errors that led to three unearned runs. The lead was extended to four on a two-run home run from Ricky Escobar. The senior was 2-for-3 with three RBIs.
“Getting a shot like that out of the guy batting ninth is always nice,” Warren said. “Tonight it really set the tone for us offensively and got the guys juiced. We had some really quality at bats tonight, now we just have to stay focused and not let ourselves get distracted by the time between games.”
4A: Sophomore does it all for Berkeley
TAMPA — After the final out, Dante Bosnic leapt into the air. He was sky high after leading Berkeley Prep past Tampa Catholic 6-2 Tuesday, moving the Buccaneers within one victory of a Class 4A state final four berth.
Bosnic, a sophomore right-hander, pitched a complete game and drove in three runs. “Absolutely, I think it’s my best game ever,” he said.
Bosnic scattered nine hits as he wiggled out of numerous jams. Tampa Catholic put at least two runners on base in five innings, but couldn’t score until the seventh. Bosnic (4-2) struck out seven, walked one and threw 80 of 117 pitches for strikes, including first-pitch strikes to 19 of 30 batters.
Bosnic had to be on top of his game against Tampa Catholic’s Billy Endris. The game was scoreless in the fourth when Endris left with a bleeding blister on the middle finger of his left pitching hand. Facing a bases-loaded situation with two out, Endris walked off the mound with a 1-0 count to Andrew Stein. Endris received medical attention and returned. But after two warmup pitches, he was done.
“We tried to let him go back out, but it was cutting him too bad,” Tampa Catholic coach Ty Griffin said. “You got a good pitching duel that has the crowd and each team into it. A little small fluke like that happens and things turn around.”
Luke Helms replaced Endris and Berkeley Prep (15-11) scored four unearned runs in the fourth. Stein’s infield hit to third broke the tie. The second infield error of the inning by Tampa Catholic (16-9) scored another run, and Victor Pellegrino and Bosnic followed with RBI walks. Bosnic added a two-run double in the sixth.
Pellegrino, a second baseman, had the key defensive play in the first. He threw out Derek Martin at the plate trying to score on a double steal.
“(Pellegrino’s play) set the tone for the game,” Bosnic said. “Even though (Tampa Catholic) got guys on later, we definitely told them we’re here to play. You came to our field and we’re ready to beat you.”
3A: Terps take advantage
At Lakeland, Tampa Prep scored two runs on a two-out, bases-loaded throwing error in the top of the ninth to clinch the second region final berth in program history with a 4-2 win over Lakeland Christian.
“The school’s very excited,” coach A.J. Hendrix said. “We’re taking the mojo from all the previous weeks we’ve had in the state tournaments, from the boys basketball team to the boys soccer team and … we’re riding their momentum. It’s been a great year.”
Pitcher Nick Adams scored the go-ahead run when the Vikings futilely tried to pick him off third. Adams relieved starter Durin O’Linger (six innings, five hits, eight strikeouts) in the top of the seventh, allowing two hits over three scoreless innings.
In their past 28 innings, Adams and O’Linger have combined to allow two runs. Nick De Tringo and Matt Hodges had early RBI singles for the Terrapins (18-9).
2A: Cambridge comes up short
At Winter Haven, Cambridge Christian junior right-hander Nick Eicholtz stood throw-to-throw with Vanderbilt signee Carson Fulmer for the better part of seven intense innings.
Eicholtz’s lone glitch: a no-out walk in the fifth, followed by an RBI double two batters later that gave All Saints’ Academy a 1-0 victory.
“That was even a good pitch,” Lancers coach Sam Marsonek said.
Eicholtz and Fulmer both tossed two-hitters, with Eicholtz recording 10 strikeouts to Fulmer’s 14.
“For us, we played great defensively,” Marsonek said. “I mean, our shortstop (Spencer Wynn) made several really nice plays, but we just couldn’t get anything going offensively. (Fulmer) was throwing breaking balls behind the count, and then you couple that with a fastball that’s 93 or 94 (mph).”
Staff writer Joey Knight and correspondents Andy Warrener, Steve Lee, Basil Spyridakos and Don Jensen contributed to this report.