ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas Park and Largo advanced to Friday's Class 5A, District 12 final Wednesday. The Patriots routed Boca Ciega 10-0 while the Packers held off Northeast 7-5.
Junior Donny Norris allowed five hits over five innings for the Patriots, striking out eight and walking one. Senior Kaleb Paulton went 3-for-3 with a solo home run and two RBIs, finishing a triple shy of the cycle.
"He's been one of our steadiest hitters all year long," Patriots coach Bill Ruttencutter said. "He's been hitting the ball really well near the end of the season, and that's the right time."
Already ahead 6-0 in the fifth, Paulton led off with a double. After a walk and a hit batsman loaded the bases, freshman Ryan Reinoso blasted a grand slam to end the game via the mercy rule.
In the nightcap, Largo got a leadoff home run from senior Robert Clark. In the fourth, a pair of singles and an error loaded the bases for junior James Monson, who delivered a single, scoring two for a 6-0 lead.
But the Vikings responded. Senior Jeremy Lopez led off the bottom of the inning with a double and scored on senior Walt Lamerson's double, igniting a three-run rally.
Senior Spencer Ashworth, however, turned out to be too much for the Vikings, going all the way for the Packers.
"He pitched his way out of trouble," Largo coach Joel Slawinski said. "He stuck with it, and he didn't lose his cool.
"All season long, we've been talking about getting a little bit better every day and making sure we improve from game to game. It's not how you start the season. It's how you finish."