WESLEY CHAPEL — Ryan Anderson was the reason Brandon was still in Wednesday's game. In the third inning of the Eagles' Class 7A region quarterfinal with Wiregrass Ranch, the senior pitcher and outfielder broke the game open with an RBI double, scoring the second run of the night moments later on a Bulls' throwing error.
So when all the Eagles had to do was hold onto their early lead to advance, Brandon coach Matthew Stallbaumer knew he didn't want anyone other than Anderson leading the way.
"Going into the bottom of the seventh with a one-run lead with our guy Ryan on the mound, I would have taken that on the ride over here," Stallbaumer said.
But after drawing a leadoff walk in the seventh inning, Wiregrass Ranch finally came up with timely hitting — something the Eagles lacked most of the night — and Bulls catcher Alex Goebel hit a walk-off single to leftfield to give Wiregrass Ranch a 3-2 victory.
The Bulls (19-6) had ridden strong pitching — Zach Drury threw a no-hitter in the district final — and defense to get to Wednesday's matchup. But down the stretch, it appeared everything was going the Eagles' way.
Brandon (16-10) had replaced starting pitcher Antonio Velez with Anderson in the fifth inning, and the senior right-hander immediately started shutting the Bulls down, striking out four of the six batters he faced in the fifth and sixth innings.
The accuracy, though, wouldn't last. Anderson walked Richie Piazza, the eight-hole hitter, in the bottom of the seventh, putting the tying run aboard.
After walking Piazza, Anderson got a ground out. But as the top of the lineup arrived at the plate, so did the Bulls' clutch hitters. Austin Drury singled home Piazza, then Goebel's single scored Drury.
After the game, Stallbaumer stood silently by the gate while his disappointed team gathered their belongings in the dugout.
"My senior who's been the staple of the program for four years, who's worked extremely hard, yeah, it's really tough," Stallbaumer said. "This senior class has been through so much …and they're winners."
More 7A: Sickles did all of its damage in one inning of a 5-3 comeback win over Durant.
The Gryphons (18-7) erased a 3-0 deficit with a five-run fifth highlighted by Levi Gilcrease's three-run home run over the left-centerfield fence. Maddux Faber added an RBI triple in that inning.
"(Gilcrease) was in a slump and we were just waiting for him to explode," coach Bob Pagano said. "It had to happen sometime."
Sickles loaded the bases with two outs in the first, but that threat ended when Durant's Bryce Gainer fanned Maddux Faber.
That marked the first of 10 straight outs before Patrick O'Donnell led off Sickles' fifth with a single. Matt Gele was hit by a pitch before Xavier Rodriguez hit a run-scoring single, setting the stage for Gilcrease.
"I was just trying to put the ball in play," said Gilcrease, a leftfielder who also made a diving catch to his left in the first. "Sometimes when you put the ball in play it goes far."
Durant took a 3-0 lead in the third. Justin Nardello reached on the first of two infield errors and scored on a double play before Luke Heyer hit a two-run double, his second double of the game.
Sickles' Troy Bacon went the distance, scattering seven hits, striking out six and walking one.
5A: Another postseason game, another Jesuit win. Kasey Radke picked up the victory and Michael Sandborn shut the door as Jesuit defeated Boca Ciega 3-2.
It was the sixth consecutive season Jesuit has at least reached the region quarterfinals. The Tigers (21-7) will host Robinson, a team they've beaten three times this season, Tuesday.
Radke (7-1) cruised through much of the night. The senior southpaw scattered three hits through 51/3 innings, striking out four and walking a pair before giving way to Sandborn, who picked up his first save of the season.
Tully Allen's RBI single in the second made it 3-1 heading into the top of the sixth. After a leadoff flyout, a walk and double chased Radke from the game. Nick Adams' infield chop went for an RBI single, putting runners at first and third. But Sandborn fanned the next batter and induced a groundout to end the threat.
"I was just going in there looking to hit the zone and execute pitches," said Sandborn, who had been starting games recently after pitching out of the bullpen earlier in the season. "I like to set the pace starting and I think I'm a little more comfortable doing that. It was a little nerve-racking but I made it through."
At Bradenton, Robinson (10-16) nabbed a 6-0 win over Bayshore. Nathan Doherty and Jack White got on with a walk and a single, respectively, in the first inning, and Tommy Craparo drove Doherty in with a two-out single. Shawn Herron followed with an RBI single to make it 2-0.
In the second, TJ Cole walked to get on and Darius Autry drove him in with an RBI single to rightfield. Doherty singled to bring Autry in for the 4-0 advantage. The rest of Robinson's runs came in the fourth inning, both on errors by Bayshore.
3A: Tampa Prep (18-10) overcame an early 3-0 deficit to defeat host Lakeland Christian 5-3 for the third consecutive year. Logan Browning pitched two opening innings, then the roof caved in on the senior lefty. He walked a pair of batters and hit another. Doubles by Matt Hodges and Holden Bridges, just inside the lines to leftfield and rightfield, respectively, were the big blows.
Times correspondents Brandon Wright and Steve Lee contributed to this report, which uses information from the Herald-Tribune and Ledger.