NEW PORT RICHEY — Of all the classic Land O'Lakes-Ridgewood baseball duels of the last quarter century, Wednesday night's Class 5A, District 7 semifinal isn't likely to go down in series lore.
To the contrary, this was Rams-Gators gore.
The top-seeded Gators (22-3) collected eight runs off as many hits before the game's second out was registered, and coasted to a 16-4 triumph halted after 41/2 innings by the 10-run mercy rule.
The Gators face Wesley Chapel in tonight's 7:30 final at River Ridge. Coach Calvin Baisley's hope for this evening: that his club brings the same bats, and considerably fewer balls.
Struggling with what appeared to be an exceptionally tight strike zone, Gators ace Trey Dahl (10-0) issued eight walks in four innings, the same number totaled by five Rams pitchers over the same span. Dahl was relieved by junior Zack May, who worked a scoreless fifth.
"Both (teams) struggled with the strike zone, I'll put it that way," Baisley said.
"My arm was good, my velocity was up there," added Dahl, who allowed only three hits and struck out three. "You get those kind of nights."
By contrast, the Gators batters consistently found their spots — the sweet ones. Every starter had at least one hit, with J.J. Downum, Matt Fuglesang, Steven Alvarez, Luis Renovalous and Derek Lynch recording multi-hit efforts.
"When we came out, I think the first six pitches, we must have had four nice hits and I was like, 'Wow, this is kind of nice,' " Baisley said. "We'll take that every game.
"We could've saved a few of those runs for (tonight)."
Fuglesang (7-2, 1.92 ERA) starts on the mound tonight against Wesley Chapel (10-13). The Wildcats clinched their first playoff berth Tuesday with a 3-2 win against host River Ridge on Jeremy Johnson's eighth-inning walk-off homer.