TAMPA — This year's Plant team is young, bearing little resemblance to the RBI machines of recent years.
The Panthers have had to scrap for runs. They've relied on pitching, and in Friday's Class 5A-10 district title game, they needed No. 3 starter Sergio Pita to shine under the bright spotlight against top-seeded Jesuit.
Pita, one of just four seniors on the field for the Panthers on Friday, delivered by holding the Tigers scoreless until the final out in a 10-1 victory that gave the Panthers back-to-back district titles.
"I'm as proud of this team as any team I've ever coached," Plant coach Dennis Braun said. "Sergio deserves this day more than anybody because he hasn't gotten many innings."
The Panthers (19-7) broke open a scoreless game in the sixth inning, scoring four runs and chasing Jesuit starter Willi Martin. Plant added six more in the seventh, highlighted by Stan Rowe's mammoth three-run homer to left and Mychal Givens' two-run single.
Just before Plant's offensive outburst, Pita stranded the bases loaded with a strikeout of Jesuit slugger Jimmy Falla.
"That was a big strikeout," Pita said. "Once we got into the dugout we got pumped and we started scoring."
Jesuit (25-2) was held to six hits. After winning their first 23 games and earning a consensus No. 1 ranking, the Tigers enter the region tournament 2-2 — outscored 22-8 in that span.
Rowe drove in four runs, Givens three. Centerfielder Conner Mitchell added two hits, including a two-run double to the right-centerfield gap in the seventh.