Monday, February 19, 2018
Sports

Jesuit in favorite role as baseball playoffs begin

The weather has turned a bit warmer, sweat pours a touch quicker and for area baseball teams, the march toward Fort Myers begins this week. Nationally ranked Jesuit, a team that's been to the state final four the past four seasons, has the inside track on a title but the Tigers are not alone in their championship aspirations. Here's a look at the upcoming district tournaments and some players to keep an eye on.

8A-7 at Bloomingdale

Monday: No. 3 Newsome vs. No. 6 Wharton, 4 p.m.; No. 4 Plant vs. No. 5 Bloomingdale, 7 p.m.; Tuesday: No.2 Alonso vs. Newsome/Wharton winner, 4 p.m.; No. 1 Durant vs. Plant/Bloomingdale winner, 7 p.m. Thursday: Final, 7 p.m.

The Skinny: This six-team district is going to come down to one thing — which team gets hot at the right time. Five of the six clubs can lay claim to a legitimate shot at reaching the finals. Finding a tougher district in the area — or the state for that matter — would be difficult.

Player To Watch: Durant's Tyler Danish may be the most complete player in the area. The Florida-bound Danish is hitting .368 with five homers and 25 RBIs while going 10-1 on the mound, without surrendering an earned run all season.

7A-9 at Riverview

Monday: No. 6 East Bay vs. No. 3 Plant City, 4 p.m.; No. 4 Riverview vs. No. 6 Tampa Bay Tech, 7 p.m. Tuesday: No. 2 Hillsborough vs. East Bay/Plant City winner, 4 p.m.; No. 1 Brandon vs. Riverview/TBT winner, 7 p.m. Thursday: Final, 7.

The Skinny: Brandon and Hillsborough look to be the favorites, but don't count out Riverview or Plant City. The Terriers enter as winners of their last eight while Brandon's pitching and defense, which has allowed a district low 31 runs this season, should carry the Eagles.

Player To Watch: Austin Sullivan doesn't hit for much power, but the Eagles' slick-fielding second baseman is batting .387 with 22 runs and 25 stolen bases on the year.

7A-8 at Gaither

Monday: No. 4 Chamberlain vs. No. 5 Freedom, 7 p.m. Tuesday: No. 2 Gaither vs. No. 3 Wiregrass Ranch, 4 p.m.; Chamberlain/Freedom winner vs. No. 1 Steinbrenner, 7 p.m. Thursday: Final, 7 p.m.

The Skinny: Steinbrenner walked through the district undefeated while Gaither and Wiregrass Ranch each finished 5-3. The Cowboys have lost four of their last six, including a 4-3 loss against Wiregrass Ranch and a 1-0 defeat to the Warriors.

Player To Watch: Steinbrenner's Cole Gordon has been raking all season to the tune of a .418 average to go along with seven homers.

6A-11 at Leto

Monday: No. 3 Strawberry Crest vs. No. 6 Armwood, 5 p.m.; No. 4 Jefferson vs. No. 5 Sickles, 7 p.m.; Tuesday: No. 1 King vs. Jefferson/Sickles winner, 5 p.m.; No. 2 Leto vs. Strawberry Crest/Armwood winner, 7 p.m. Thursday: Final, 7 p.m..

The Skinny: King went unblemished (10-0) in the district while three teams — Strawberry Crest, Leto and Jefferson — have been fighting it out for second fiddle throughout the season.

Player To Watch: King's Brett Morales is 7-1 with a 0.54 ERA an has fanned 70 in just 52 innings.

5A-11 at Spoto

Monday: No. 3 Blake vs. No. 6 Middleton, 4 p.m.; No. 4 Lennard vs. No. 5 Spoto, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday: Blake-Middleton winner vs. No. 2 Robinson, 4 p.m.; Lennard-Spoto winner vs. No. 1 Jesuit, 7:30 p.m. Thursday: Final, 7 p.m.

The Skinny: Jesuit, ranked No. 9 in the nation by Baseball America, should have little trouble in this tournament. Although Blake and Lennard have shown improvement this season, Robinson is likely to grab the second playoff slot.

Player To Watch: Jesuit senior Spencer Trayner is 6-0 with a 1.22 ERA and a pair of saves.

4A-9 at Berkeley Prep

Tuesday: No. 2 Berkeley Prep vs. No. 3 Sarasota Booker, 7. Thursday: Berkelely-Booker winner vs. Tampa Catholic, 7 p.m.

The Skinny: This three-team district is the one to be in. Especially if you're Tampa Catholic, which earns a postseason berth and spot in the final by virtue of its No. 1 seed. The Bucs and TC split during the district season and the final should be a good one.

Player To Watch: Dre Leal paces the Crusaders with a .378 average, 10 RBIs and is tied for the team lead in runs scored with 14.

3A-8 at Tampa Prep

Tuesday: No. 4 Carrollwood Day School vs. No. 5 Seffner Christian, 7. Thursday: No. 2 Bishop McLaughlin vs. No. 3 Brooks- DeBartolo, 4 p.m.; No. 1 Tampa Prep vs. Seffner Christian/CDS winner, 7 p.m. Friday: Final, 7 p.m.

The Skinny: The Terrapins come into the tournament scorching hot, having won eight of nine. Prep's only district loss came to Bishop McLaughlin and there's a good chance those two teams will square off for the title.

Player To Watch: Luis Medina has been excellent as a freshman for Prep, hitting at a .403 clip and clubbing three homers.

2A-8 at Bayshore Christian

Tuesday: No. 1 Cambridge Christian vs. No. 4 Tampa Bay Christian Academy, 4 p.m.; No. Academy at the Lakes vs. No. 3 Bayshore Christian, 7 p.m.. Thursday: Final, 7 p.m.

The Skinny: Cambridge Christian, Bayshore and Academy at the Lakes all have a shot in this wide-open district and the semifinal between the Warriors and Wildcats will book a slot in the postseason for one of those teams.

Player To Watch: Cambridge's Nick Eicholtz has been terrific on the mound and in the batter's box, hitting .405 with five HRs and striking out 41 batters in just 21 innings.

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