TAMPA — For the first three innings of Thursday's Class 6A region quarterfinal, Jefferson looked very much like a district champion while Osceola looked like a flustered team whose bus was an hour late.
By the end of the fourth inning, things changed dramatically. The Warriors scored five unearned runs in the fourth to erase a two-run deficit. It was the clear turning point in their 7-3 win.
"We started a little slowly but the second time around we settled down and started to play some good baseball," Osceola coach Stefan Futch said. "We were hoping to get a spark somewhere and we finally got it."
The game started an hour late because there was no bus scheduled to pick up Osceola. The Warriors looked a little rusty in the first inning.
Starter Keith Weisenberg gave up consecutive hits to leadoff hitter Jose Cuellar and Trey Robinson. A wild pitch put runners on second and third, and Nelson Maldonado followed with a groundout to first that scored Cuellar.
Weisenberg, who struggled with control early, threw a wild pitch that bounced away from catcher Mike Kleinman and gave the Dragons a 2-0 lead.
Trailing 3-1 in the fourth, Johnathon Diaz struck out the first two Osceola batters. It looked as if he would retire the side in order when Buddy Dougherty hit a high fly to shortstop. But Cuellar dropped the ball.
Jake Rek walked and Joey Coca singled home a run to make it 3-2. Diaz then balked home a run to tie at 3. He was relieved by Jordan Norman, who didn't have much luck either.
Abiezer Jimenez singled home Coca to make it 4-3. Jaret Helinger tripled to left for another run, and Helinger scored on an RBI double by Kleinman. Six straight Osceola batters reached base with two outs before Jefferson ended the inning.
Osceola tacked on a run in the sixth when Rek scored on a throwing error to first base. Of Osceola's seven runs, only one was earned.
Weisenberg pitched seven innings and struck out 10, including the final three batters he faced. But he did walk six, threw three wild pitches and had two errant pickoff attempts.
Class 8A: As Kyle Tucker stood in the on-deck circle, Plant leading St. Petersburg by seven runs in the sixth, Stephen Chamblee gave his teammate a little last-minute reminder.
"Hey, we need three more," Chamblee told Tucker.
Moments later, the junior centerfielder hit his state-leading 10th home run of the season, driving in the three runs Plant needed to cap a 10-0 win.
"Whenever he gets up to bat, we're always expecting a home run," catcher Ryan Ellis said. "I guess at that point, it wasn't a bad idea to take a hack."
But through three innings, host Plant (23-5) had sent the minimum to the plate, the third ending in a double play. St. Petersburg (17-9) had its chances early as Jake Ferguson singled in the first and Aaron Haughton doubled in the second. Both times Plant right-hander Jake Woodford — who gave up just four hits and struck out six in six innings — escaped.
Once Plant made its way through the lineup one time, the offense picked up. Tucker singled in the top of the fourth and advanced to second on a passed ball. Ellis and designated hitter Matt Vaka followed with two-out RBI doubles to give Plant a 2-0 lead.
Plant added four runs on errors between the fifth and sixth innings, and Cooper Dickens singled to drive in the seventh run in the sixth before Tucker's blast.
Class 2A: In the season opener, Bayshore Christian dropped a 4-2 decision to Lakeside Christian. The Faith Warriors have come a long way since.
Bayshore Christian (11-4) held a 6-3 lead late in a rematch with the Lions, then broke open the game with six runs in the sixth inning for a 12-4 victory at Interbay Little League.
Bayshore Christian right-hander Evan Holland threw a complete game and struck out seven batters. After giving up a two-run home run to Christian Michener in the third inning that gave the Lions (14-10) a 2-1 lead, Holland settled into a groove, giving up only two more runs the rest of the way.
Trailing 3-1 in the fourth, Bayshore Christian grabbed the lead for good with five runs, all coming with two outs.
Also in 2A, Cambridge Christian and host Canterbury each scored a run in the first inning. But for the next four, neither team could make a move.
Eager to finally put the game away, the Lancers scored two runs in the six and four more in the seventh to win 7-1.
Times staff writer Kelly Parsons and correspondent Bryan Burns contributed to this report.