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Region baseball preview: Confidence on the rise for some Pinellas County teams

Osceola left-hander Taylor Layner threw a three-hitter during the district tournament and has struck out as many as 13 in a game this season.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

Osceola left-hander Taylor Layner threw a three-hitter during the district tournament and has struck out as many as 13 in a game this season.

Pinellas County has been on a roll in the postseason the past two years. Clearwater Central Catholic won a state title in 2007. Dunedin won last season. It is the first time the county has had state champions in consecutive seasons since the early 2000s when Seminole (2001) and Clearwater Central Catholic (2002) each brought home state titles. Can a county team win state this year? That seemed remote at the start of the season, due in large part to the mass exodus of talented players who graduated. Nearly every team in Pinellas was loaded with underclassmen. Those young players took some lumps. But they also absorbed every lesson. The payoff could come in the next two weeks with a trip to the state tournament. A breakdown of the region quarterfinal games.

Region quarterfinals

All games are Tuesday at 7 p.m. unless noted. Admission: $6 At stake: The winner advances to the region semifinals Friday.

Class 5A

East Lake (17-10) at Plant (19-7)

Outlook: The Eagles played well down the stretch before losing to Dunedin in the district final. East Lake's offense is the key. The Eagles scored eight or more runs in their last four wins. After losing to nationally ranked Jesuit twice during the regular season, the Panthers pulled off the upset in the district final.

Jesuit (25-2) at Dunedin (21-6)

Outlook: This is the game Tuesday. The host Falcons, the defending state 5A champs, have won 10 straight, including a 12-2 pounding of East Lake in the district final. After adjusting the lineup and putting shortstop Casey Turgeon in the leadoff spot, the Falcons have been on a tear, outscoring opponents 111-28. And it's not just the top of the lineup. Dunedin has been getting contributions from its six through nine hitters, too. The Tigers started the season on a 23-game winning streak and were ranked No. 1 in the nation. But they're 2-2 in their last four games, including a loss to Plant in the district final.

Bradenton Manatee (13-15) at Osceola (20-6)

Outlook: The Warriors rebounded from a late-season slide to win the district. Taylor Layner will start for Osceola in a favorable matchup for the Warriors. Manatee was a lower seed in its district and pulled off a few upsets to reach the final.

Seminole (20-8) at Punta Gorda Charlotte (18-10)

Outlook: The Warhawks are in the playoffs for the 12th straight season, though not in the position they want to be after losing to Osceola in the district final. Seminole has the pitching to make a run but will need more from its offense.

Class 3A

St. Petersburg Catholic (15-12) at Fort Myers Bishop Verot (13-14)

Outlook: The Barons are in the postseason for the first time since 2004 after knocking off defending district champion Clearwater Central Catholic in the semifinals. Justin Tedder, who pitched in the semis for SPC, should start.

Class 2A

Northside Christian (18-9) at Community School of Naples (16-10)

Outlook: The Mustangs return most of their lineup from last year's team that advanced to the region final. Trouble is, most teams in the region have lots of key returners, too. The Mustangs' David Edwards and Alex McGathey have been producing on offense and will need to again.

Class A

Manatee HEAT 10-4) at Canterbury (16-6)

Outlook: The Crusaders' young lineup came through with another district title. And Canterbury stands a good chance of advancing to the next round.

Oldsmar Christian (5-10) at Sarasota Out-of-Door (16-13)

Outlook: Oldsmar made the playoffs in a three-team district, but going any further will be a tough task.

Region baseball preview: Confidence on the rise for some Pinellas County teams 05/02/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 4, 2009 3:09pm]
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