CLEARWATER — Northeast has had a knack for winning close games all season. That trend continued Friday night in the Class 7A, District 9 final against East Lake.
The Vikings scored three runs in the first inning and held on for dear life in the seventh to defeat the Eagles 3-2. Northeast (22-4) has won 16 straight and will host Braden River in Wednesday's regional quarterfinals. East Lake (19-8) has the daunting task of playing at Sarasota.
"We jumped out to a lead and then (starter) Josh (Hale) just pitched great again," Vikings coach Rob Stanifer said. "We made it interesting in the end, but that's how it's been going."
Northeast jumped on East Lake starter Ryan Wall in the first inning. Angelo Terrasi led off with a double and Chris Clark followed with a squib single.
Bret Maxwell then doubled both runners home to make it 2-0. One out later, Will Condon singled, stole second and went to third on a passed ball. Jason Mugavero flew out to leftfield, scoring Maxwell.
Hale rolled through the first three innings, but the Eagles got going in the fourth. Cameron Churchill led off with a single. Ian Lisle then homered to right center to make it 3-2. Hale struck out the next three batters.
East Lake's best chance came in the seventh. Jesse Moeller came on in relief and struck out Andrew Prozzillo to start the inning. Brad Deppermann hit a fly ball to second base, but it was dropped by Mugavero.
Sawyer Wirth struck out for the second out, but Keegan Maronpot singled to put two on with two out. After a long battle, Moeller got Nick DeSantis to strike out on a curveball in the dirt to end the game.
"They were one pitch better than us," East Lake coach Dan Genna said. "If I had any mulligans I wish I could use one in the first inning. But that's a good team. They were the No. 1 (district) seed for a reason."
Northeast snapped East Lake's run of three straight district championships. And it was done in typical Vikings style: Score early and play defense.
"We put it all together in the first inning," Maxwell said. "We had guys on base just about every other inning but we couldn't get them in. But we did all the little things that we had to do to win."
6A-10: Osceola falls
SEMINOLE — After graduating six seniors who made significant contributions to last year's district title, Mitchell coach Scot Wilcox knew he would have to employ some different tactics.
To stay on top in the new Class 6A, District 10, the Mustangs needed to play small ball rather than slugging to victories.
Mitchell (17-10) put it all on display in the second inning of Friday's title game with sacrifice bunts and flyouts, manufacturing just enough runs to repeat as district champions, 2-1 over host Osceola.
"We didn't have as much of the power and pure hitters that we've been blessed with in the past," Wilcox said. "We were a little more young and inexperienced coming into the season. It's a challenge and we've had to work on taking care of all the small details. But the guys have accepted their roles."
In the second, Mitchell's Mike Freeman led off with a single. Three of the next four batters reached safely on bunts, including one by Kamren Powers to bring in Freeman for a 1-0 lead.
Alex Mendez followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Josh Lamb.
In the third inning, the Warriors (20-7) scored as AJ Rivera walked, moved to third on a single by Joey Coca and came home on Abbi Jimenez's sacrifice fly.
But Osceola had just three hits. Mitchell's pitchers — Kyle Blakeney, Tyler Vanderveer and Ryan Slaughter — confounded Warrior batters with a steady diet of offspeed pitches from a variety of angles.
"The art of pitching is to keep batters off balance," Osceola coach Stefan Futch said. "Mitchell did a great job by using some different arms and giving us some different looks. Bottom line is they outhit us, especially with two outs. It felt like we were in quicksand all night."
Bob Putnam, Times staff writer