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Region baseball: What to expect from North Suncoast teams

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Mon. April 28, 2014 | Derek J. LaRiviere and Darek Sharp

Region baseball: What to expect from North Suncoast teams

Region baseball quarterfinals
Class 7A
Who:
Brandon (16-9) at Wiregrass Ranch (18-6)
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Next up: Durant-Sickles winner
Outlook: It’s not going out very far on a limb to say this will be low scoring. Entering the 7A-8 tournament as part of a four-way tie for first, the pitching of Austin and Zach Drury — in that order — lifted the Bulls to their first title. Zach merely hurled a no-hitter in the 1-0 final victory against Sickles. They can both hit, too, and Michael Campoamor tops all the team’s major batting categories. Brandon has given up more than one run just once in its last seven games, winning all but the 1-0 district final defeat to Durant. The Eagles have three reliable options, with Austin Sullivan doubling as the team’s most consistent hitter (.342) and sophomore lefty Antonio Velez containing filthy stuff. Ryan Anderson has Brandon’s only three homers this season.  

Class 6A
Who:
King (20-6) at Mitchell (17-10)
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Next up: Jefferson or Osceola
Outlook: By the regular season alone, King would have been considered the heavy favorite. But the Lions lost 11-1 in the district final to a Jefferson team they had swept in the regular season. Mitchell received a huge lift when Cobi Johnson, limited to just hitting for a month due to injury, was called on to throw in the district semifinals and got the job done against Springstead. No doubt Johnson will go again Thursday, and with the 6A bracket set up so there’s a full week in between the region semis and final, Mitchell might be able to ride him for a while. Alex Mendez is hitting .333 for Mitchell, topping the team in both runs (26) and RBIs (30). Kyle Frick hits .402.

Class 5A
Who:
Pasco (16-10) at Land O’Lakes (18-8)
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Next up: Hernando or Sunlake
Outlook: The Gators didn’t have a true ace until Tom Guglielmello was eased onto the mound midway through the season. He’s gone 6-0 with a 0.65 ERA. Top-of-the-order trio Connor Stephens, Kyle Sheffield and Alex Reynolds are in fine form, and behemoth designated hitter Liam Heaney is the deep threat. Catcher Cam Hilgenberg is ultra-athletic and had a home run against Sunlake. When Pasco wins, it does so primarily with offense, so good thing the Pirates have plenty to go around. A.J. Rainaldi came up with two homers, including a grand slam, against Wesley Chapel in the district tournament and is batting .364. Football star Malik Johns is a menace on the base paths. Turner Imhoff is the imposing presence (.378, 29 RBIs). The staff ERA is around 3.50 with the prime culprit walks (133 issued in 181 innings). But Brian Johnson, who got the must-win start against Wesley Chapel, went the distance in that one, giving up just one run (only one walk).  Deaven Phillips logged the most starts, innings and strikeouts.

Who: Sunlake (17-9) at Hernando (23-4)
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Next up: Pasco or Land O’Lakes
Outlook: The Leopards have been perennial members of the postseason fray, qualifying for their fifth straight appearance last week with a 16-6 district title victory over Pasco. Led by ace starter Kyle Kilbourne (9-1, 1.24 ERA), Hernando has won with pitching and defense. Even with the loss of first-round MLB draft pick Christian Arroyo and top pitcher Brandon Lawson to the USF rotation, the Leopards have found a core group to rally around, including Austin Treverton (.394, two home runs, 18 RBIs) and Justin Young (.348, four HRs, 30 RBIs). In the opposing dugout, the Seahawks are making their first region appearance. Although Sunlake fell 7-3 in the district title game to Land O’Lakes, the Seahawks have  plenty of talent, including six regulars hitting over .300. Omar Cala leads the Seahawks at .378 with 17 RBIs, and David Castillo (.368, 15 RBIs) and Zac Howard (.347, one HR, 18 RBIs) have also provided plenty of punch at the plate. Four hurlers have started multiple games, with Castillo leading the charge at 6-3 and a 1.78 ERA.

Class 3A
Who:
Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic (18-10) at Bishop McLaughlin (17-7)
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Next up: Tampa Prep or Lakeland Christian
Outlook: Last season marked the first time since 2006 that Bishop McLaughlin did not qualify for the state playoffs. It only took one year for the Hurricanes to get back. First-year coach Jeff Swymer brought together the young squad, especially late in the season, as the team is on an eight-game win streak. Even with five regulars who are freshmen or sophomores, the Hurricanes have been driven by experienced leadership. Junior Will Potosky (.323, 13 RBI) has come on to lead Bishop McLaughlin at the plate, while senior Jack Tyler (4-0, 1.83 ERA) has done more than his share on the mound. The Hawks have been here before, qualifying for the postseason for the second straight year. It is the first time Santa Fe has reached the state playoffs in consecutive seasons since 2004-07. With a team ERA of 1.63, five pitchers have the ability to come in and shut down opponents. Junior ace Bruno Dezayas (7-2, 0.53 ERA) heads up the staff.

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