Monday, December 18, 2017
Sports

Plant City Little League Majors advance to state tournament

PLANT CITY

The planned return to the Little League Southeast Region tournament has not been as smooth as expected for the Plant City Majors team, but that doesn't make the boys any less of a favorite to repeat as state champs.

Plant City will try to accomplish both goals beginning Friday, July 26, in Lutz, site of this year's state event. Should it escape the weekend as one of the last two teams standing, Plant City will play for the state title on Monday.

"We're starting to look like a well-oiled machine," said Plant City manager T.J. Messick. "Once they started to talk to each other, have fun and stop stressing, it kind of set them apart."

A nail-biting win over North Brandon last Friday at Lakewood Ranch also helped. The opening game in the Section 4 tourney proved to be the key contest as PC eked out a 5-4 decision.

Saturday's concluding games saw Plant City blow out host Lakewood Ranch 19-2 and pound Lutz 10-0.

"Really, the North Brandon game was the championship," Messick said. "Had it been the last game, you'd have had two 2-0 teams playing for the title."

Whenever it was played, the game went down to the wire. Plant City led 4-0 until, with two outs and two strikes in the third inning, when North Brandon's Will Gilbert hit a three-run homer.

Fortunately Cade Shissler hit a home run in the top of the fifth for some cushion, because North Brandon plated a run in its final at-bat.

Messick called on J.J. Gonzalez to get the final out, and with the winning run at the plate he got the strikeout.

After the big challenge from North Brandon, it was easy pickings. Plant City hit five home runs, including three on consecutive at-bats by Tommy Johnson, Jake Stines and Braxton Plunk in the rout of Lakewood Ranch. Bryar Christian had three hits including a homer and Andrew Long hit a three-run shot while collecting the win on the mound.

Then against Lutz and its hard-throwing ace Danny Bautista the offense really got rolling. Ben Pues had four hits and two homers.

In last year's sectional event Plant City played the same three teams and all three games were competitive. It bodes well for this weekend in Lutz.

"When (All-Stars) started we weren't really gelling," Messick said. "You could tell the kids were thinking, 'Oh this is districts, we're going to crush everyone.' And then North Lakeland gave us a scare (6-3) in the finals and they figured out that we had to get it going."

Greater Dunedin, which went over to Tampa and came away with the Section 7 crown last weekend, plays Plant City on Friday at 5 p.m. On Saturday at 11:30 a.m., Plant City faces the only other returning team, North Springs. Pool play concludes with game against Northwest Leon Saturday at 5 p.m.

The Leon team had a two-team sectional tournament but did knock out a Niceville side that had gone through its three district games with a combined 58-0 score. Dunedin knocked out the considered home team, Bayshore, in the Section 7 final. North Springs won its sectional title with a thrilling 10-9 defeat of Kendall.

Over in the other pool sit Martin County North, Deltona, East Orange National and Sarasota America. So Plant City should have a decided home-field advantage of anyone.

The top two teams from each pool advance to play in Sunday's 11 a.m. semifinals. Those winners will meet Monday morning at 10, with the winner headed to Warner Robins, Ga., as Team Florida for the Southeast Regional.

Plant City came up short in a bid at last year's regional, but all season the players have spoke of going one step further and reaching Williamsport, Pa., for the Little League World Series.

But vying for the state title comes first.

Darek Sharp can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Bucs picked up club option on Jason Lichtís contract for 2018 earlier this year, but GMís future still not clear

Bucs picked up club option on Jason Lichtís contract for 2018 earlier this year, but GMís future still not clear

Bucs general manager Jason Licht did not receive a contract extension after the team went 9-7 last season. Instead, the Glazer family which owns the Bucs decided to pick up a one-year club option on Licht’s contract for 2018. That happened some...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Jim Leavitt isnít coming back to Florida after all

Jim Leavitt isnít coming back to Florida after all

Former USF coach Jim Leavitt isn't coming back to the state after all.Sports Illustrated reported late Sunday evening that Leavitt will remain at Oregon as its defensive coordinator – a position that will earn him a cool $1.7 million annually. ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The future of Dirk Koetter

The future of Dirk Koetter

Three games. That's how many the Bucs have left. Can the same be said for Dirk Koetter's head coaching career?The answer to that question might be determined by what happens in those three games.If the Bucs lose the rest – and that is more like...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bulls expected to sign at least 6 (and possibly more) this week

Bulls expected to sign at least 6 (and possibly more) this week

At least a half-dozen high school seniors — and possibly more — are expected to sign with USF when the NCAA's new 72-hour early signing period for football commences Wednesday.Homestead South Dade TE Chris Carter Jr., a three-star prospec...
Updated: 20 minutes ago
HomeTeam 25: Girls basketball rankings for Tampa Bay

HomeTeam 25: Girls basketball rankings for Tampa Bay

1. Lakewood (10-0)This week: Friday at OsceolaThe buzz: The Spartans have been blowing teams out, but things will get harder over the winter break when they play in the Florida Prospects tournament in Orlando. Senior forward Toi Smith has missed a fe...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Bucs-Falcons: Predicting tonightís Monday Night Football Game

Bucs-Falcons: Predicting tonightís Monday Night Football Game

MONDAY NIGHT FRIGHTS Tom Jones, @tomwjones: The Falcons are playing for something. The Bucs are playing out the string. And, well, the Falcons are way better than Tampa Bay. On paper, this game won't be close. It won't be on the field either. If the ...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Photo gallery: FIU, Temple compete in lawn mower race at Busch Gardens

Photo gallery: FIU, Temple compete in lawn mower race at Busch Gardens

Members of the Florida International University and Temple football teams participated in a lawn mower race Monday at Busch Gardens as part of the festivities leading up to Thursdayís Gasparilla Bowl at Tropicana Field.Head coaches Butch Davis of FIU...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Falcons blew a 28-3 lead, but so did the Bucs

The Falcons blew a 28-3 lead, but so did the Bucs

The Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in last season's Super Bowl, and no one will let them forget it.Including the Bucs.During a playful exchange on Twitter in May, Tampa Bay trolled its division rivals by posting a photo of Vernon Hargreaves, No. 28, and Ja...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs Ring of Honor: Which current player will make it?

Bucs Ring of Honor: Which current player will make it?

With Jon Gruden becoming the 11th member of the Bucs’ Ring of Honor tonight, what about current members of the Bucs?Bucs roundtable question: What current Bucs player not named Gerald McCoy is most likely to wind up in the Ring of Honor. Member...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs defense vs. Matt Ryan: What to expect tonight

Bucs defense vs. Matt Ryan: What to expect tonight

Atlanta and Matt Ryan are in town to face the Bucs on Monday Night Football, so it's a chance to revisit a quarterback Tampa Bay knows well, with 19 meetings over the past 10 seasons. A couple of talking points for tonight's game and the challenge ah...
Updated: 2 hours ago