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Class 5A state baseball semifinal: Plant High riding its talented trio of pitchers

PORT ST. LUCIE — A quick stroll through the concourse at Tradition Field is revealing.

Listen to some of the casual conversations and it's clear most teams reached the state baseball tournament with one common element: a good pitcher.

Plant, in that case, should feel confident entering today's Class 5A state semifinal against Stuart South Fork.

The Panthers have three.

From a fireballer to a master of the breaking ball to an unsung hero, Plant is led by senior right-handers Mychal Givens, Jake Lowe and Sergio Pita. The talented trio is rested and ready to provide every ounce those arms can muster for a shot at Plant's first state title in 21 years.

But to do it, Plant must figure out South Fork (27-3), which has outscored opponents 38-0 in its past four postseason games.

"Knowing we have three top pitchers, three starters to keep us in the game, we have every chance to move on," Lowe said.

Plant (24-8) entered the season thinking pitching was its strength, and that proved to be the case.

"They all bring a different arm angle, and they all bring something different," Plant coach Dennis Braun said. "It's a good wrinkle for everybody."

Givens was a known quantity, an ace right-hander capable of drawing Major League Baseball scouts with hype he could become a first-round draft pick in June. He leads Plant with a 1.28 ERA, 95 strikeouts and an 8-2 record.

Pita, the No. 3 starter, set the tone of the postseason with a stunning 62/3-inning performance in a 10-1 win against Jesuit to claim the Class 5A, District 10 final. Then he picked up a victory in relief in Game 1 of the best-of-three region final, 2-1 over Charlotte, and got another win in the decisive game.

"I'm sure he felt like he has proved himself a little more because he had the least amount of innings among us and he hadn't gotten the big start," Lowe said of Pita. "He's had his chances now, and he ran with it."

Lowe pitched a complete game in a 3-1 win against East Lake, allowing just three hits with seven strikeouts. That effort almost proved futile until a Graham Ramos walkoff home run rescued a slumping Panther offense.

And Lowe's six-inning performance in Game 1 of the region final was key in giving Plant an edge in the three-game series.

Using the region final series as a barometer, it's likely Braun will have Givens start today's game, and Lowe would start the final.

Then again, Pita has proved just as worthy of starting either game.

"If they pitch well, they keep us in the game," Braun said. "That's what they've done all year. … I'm sure all three will pitch at some point if we continue to advance."

Izzy Gould can be reached at izzygould@gmail.com or (813) 226-3458.

Class 5A state baseball semifinal: Plant High riding its talented trio of pitchers 05/24/09 [Last modified: Sunday, May 24, 2009 9:57pm]
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