Northside Christian relies on speed and power
EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times
David Edwards has helped put the Mustangs in position to play for a shot at their first state final four appearance since 2002.
David Edwards leads off for Northside Christian in the bottom of the fourth inning, determined to bring his frustrated teammates and an uneasy crowd alive against Naples St. John Neumann.
He doesn't disappoint.
Edwards draws a walk, then steals second, then advances to third. The bleachers start vibrating with the roar of the fans. The Mustangs, stifled with no hits and a 1-0 shutout, suddenly like their chances.
Especially when Ryan McDonald steps into the batter's box.
He plants his feet and waits for a pitch he can knock downtown. He sees a good one heading for the heart of the plate, uncoils with a powerful twisting motion and connects. The ball rockets toward deep centerfield. It is caught, but Edwards tags and scores.
It's 1-1 and a new game.
Northside ended up sending seven more batters to the plate and scoring three more runs that inning en route to 6-2 victory and a berth in tonight's region finals against Fort Meade.
Northside is getting used to the success of Edwards and McDonald, who bat at the top of the lineup. Both are hitting above .500 and provide the punch the Mustangs need.
Edwards is Northside's leadoff hitter. He has good instincts at the plate with the speed that will move him around the bases.
"David just finds a way to get a hit," McDonald said.
But Edwards sometimes holds tight when he's on base, waiting for McDonald to come up.
"Ryan has a little more muscle than me," Edwards said. "When he gets up, I'm just waiting for him to kill the ball, so I can score."
Together, the two have Northside playing for a shot at their first state final four appearance since 2002.
"It's special to be a part of this team," McDonald said.
Bob Putnam can be reached at
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© 2016 Tampa Bay Times
At stake: A berth in the state semifinals
Admission: $6 per day
Format: Best-of-three series begins at 4 p.m. today. The second game will be played 30 minutes after the first ends. The third game, if necessary, is at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Class 5A, Region 3
North Port (18-12) at Dunedin (22-6) at Englebert Complex
How they got here: North Port — beat Seminole 4-2 in the region quarterfinals, beat Bradenton Bayshore 7-1 in the region semifinals; Dunedin — beat Chamberlain 4-3 in the region quarterfinals, beat Plant 8-2 in the region semifinals.
Outlook: The Falcons, who are playing in the region final for the first time since 2002, got solid pitching performances from Max Kreuter and Clay Kollenbaum the past two playoff games. And Dunedin's bats are coming alive. In last week's game against Plant, four Falcons — Jake Rogers, Casey Turgeon, Ryan Schneider and Kreuter— had two or more hits. Kreuter will start the first game, followed by Kollenbaum in the second, Dunedin coach Tom Hilbert said. North Port will most likely start off with Henry Manna, who beat Seminole in the opening round.
Class 3A, Region 3
Fort Pierce John Carroll (21-5)
at CC Catholic (26-2)
How they got here: John Carroll — beat Lakeland McKeel 9-5 in the region quarterfinals, beat Frostproof 15-3 in the region semifinals; CC Catholic — beat Sarasota Cardinal Mooney 6-2 in the region quarterfinals, beat Fort Myers Bishop Verot 12-2 in the region semifinals.
Outlook: The Marauders are facing a familiar opponent. This is the third straight season CCC has met John Carroll in the region final. The Marauders won the past two. CCC coach Todd Vaughan said he will start Ryan Weber, but the rest of his rotation will be based on a gut decision. John Carroll has had plenty of offense in the playoffs, with a combined 24 runs in its past two games.
Class 2A, Region 3
Fort Meade (17-13)
at Northside Christian (21-8)
How they got here: Fort Meade — beat Tampa Prep 5-4 in the region quarterfinals, beat Winter Haven All Saints' 5-4 in the region semifinals; Northside Christian — beat Community School of Naples 8-7 in the region quarterfinals, beat Naples St. John Neumann 6-2 in the region semifinals.
Outlook: The Mustangs will most likely start JoJo Hess, who pitched in the district final and the region semifinals. Northside will probably follow with Robbie Williams. David Edwards and Ryan McDonald have been the Mustangs' leaders on offense. Fort Meade squeaked by with one-run wins in its past two games.
Bob Putnam, Times staff writer