DADE CITY — Chuck Yingling plucked the back of his soaking shirt, trying to help some ice cubes escape.
Wesley Chapel's baseball coach endured another one of those cliched water-bucket soakings Friday, this one after the Wildcats' 3-2 win over Mitchell for the Class 4A-7 district title. This marked Wesley Chapel's second straight district title and three straight finals appearances.
Once a stagnant bottom dweller, Wesley Chapel is now a prominent final four contender thanks to strong pitching, sharp defense and good run support.
All three were factors in Friday's victory.
"We did lots of good things early," Yingling said. "…We got the first jump, so it helped.They made a couple base-running mistakes. …We took advantage of it."
The Wildcats pounced in the first inning, scoring three runs on three hits, but aided by four Mustangs errors. Cole Miraglia's fielder's choice scored Geoff DeGroot for a 1-0 lead. A double by Robert Dumas scored Miraglia from first to go up 2-0. Then a Justin Frost single scored Dumas for a 3-0 lead.
From there, Wesley Chapel (23-3) relied on the pitching of Jeremy Thompson, who went the distance, allowing nine hits while striking out five.
Mitchell (18-10) had its best production in the top of the third, scoring a pair of runs to pull within a run. A Kevin Games single to leftfield scored Jordan Mizerak to make it 3-1. Then Joe Koehler's deep grounder to shortstop turned into a single, scoring Steve Brown to make it 3-2.
Mitchell, which was credited with its aggressive base running to reach the final, was bitten by it in the fifth.
With no outs, Mitchell senior Cody Van De Boe wrapped a single to leftfield deep enough to send Mizerak racing from first to home.
Wildcats leftfielder Zack White threw a near-perfect throw home in time for Frost to make the tag, then turn to gun down Van De Boe at second to end the threat.
Mitchell coach Scot Wilcox said he wouldn't change the decision to send Mizerak.
"It was a close play," Wilcox said. "Jordan said he got around it (the tag). I had the mentality …how many opportunities are we going to get like that? We had to take the chance."
Frost came up with two more huge defensive assists in the seventh before Thompson struck out Mizerak for the final out.
"Our kids are really disappointed right now," Wilcox said. "It was in their grasp and it was there for the taking. They didn't take it."
Izzy Gould can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 421-3886.