TAMPA — Despite its absence from the region tournament for the past three years, Armwood came into the season with two hefty goals: win the Saladino tournament and win districts.
The Hawks fell short of the first earlier this month, but now can win their first district title since 1989 after a 6-0 win over Bloomingdale in Wednesday's Class 5A-8 semifinal.
"I've known about (the drought) since my freshman year," Armwood ace Robert Benincasa said. "If we come out tomorrow and play like we did today, we should finally have one."
Second-seeded Armwood (21-5) faces top-seeded and defending district champ Brandon (20-5) in today's district championship at Wharton. The Eagles beat Wharton 14-3 in five innings. Both teams earned region tournament berths.
"It's that grand matchup," Brandon coach Matt Stallbaumer said. "It's a great rivalry. It's split 1-1. They're playing well. I'd like to think we are."
Benincasa (10-0), relying mainly on his fastball, threw a six-hit shutout and shortstop Zack Powers had the first two-homer game of his career, hitting a two-run shot to right-center in the first and a shot down the rightfield line in the third.
Senior third baseman Kristian Calibuso added a three-run homer in the fifth inning.
"We want to get at least one of our goals in," Powers said.
Brandon entered its game against Wharton well aware that the Wildcats rallied from a seven-run deficit to beat Freedom the night before.
"That's what all the talk was about today," Stallbaumer said. "When you get a chance to put someone away you do that."
And the Eagles didn't allow another Wharton comeback, breaking open a 4-3 game with a four-run third followed by a six-run fourth.
Shortstop Spencer Haynes was 2-for-2 with four RBIs, while catcher Michael Smith homered, doubled and drove in three and rightfielder Aaron Estrada added two hits and three RBIs.