There are still eight local teams remaining in region finals this week. Seven of those teams will be in action on Wednesday. Dunedin will play on Thursday due to graduation. Here is a look at what to expect as the teams try to earn a trip to the state tournament next week in Fort Myers. All games at 7 p.m. unless noted.
Class 8A: Plant City (27-2) at Seminole (14-14)
At stake: Winner will play the Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas/Hollywood McArthur winner on May 29 at 7 p.m.
Both of these teams won in walk-offs to get here. Plant City got big hits from Cole Cothren and Hunter Ermine to beat Plant 3-2. Seminole got another clutch hit from Shaun Whitcomb to beat East Lake 2-1 in eight innings. Both teams will be able to throw their aces in this game. For the Raiders, that is FSU commit Parker Messick. Messick pitched a three hit shutout against Steinbrenner in the region quarterfinal. He will be rested for Seminole, which has been one of the hottest teams around in the postseason. Seth Parker is the Warhawks’ ace. He is 4-5, but his ERA is 1.39 and he has been especially tough the past few weeks. Parker threw nine innings in the region quarterfinal win over Sarasota, which was 2-1 in 12 innings. Runs will be at a premium in this game. Plant City has never advanced to state. Seminole won the state title in 2001. Someone is going to Fort Myers. Expect it to come down to the final inning.
Class 8A: Tallahassee Chiles (16-13) at Strawberry Crest (17-10)
At stake: Winner will play Windermere/Lakeland George Jenkins winner on May 29 in Fort Myers at 4 p.m.
The Chargers are trying to make it back to the state tournament for a second straight year. They seem to have a good chance. The pitching duo of Alex Marshall and Kade Manderscheid came through in region wins over Lake Minneola and rival Wiregrass Ranch. They will be ready to go against the Timberwolves. Strawberry Crest got only two hits against the Bulls on Saturday, but it was enough to advance. Clearly, the Chargers will need more offense against Chiles. Senior Ben Gurley (5-3, 2.32) has pitched the most innings for Chiles this season. He threw eight innings in a 5-1 win over Fleming Island in nine innings in the regional quarterfinal. The Chargers would like to get the offense going early and rely on pitching and defense to advance.
Class 7A: Osceola (19-10) at Venice (23-6)
At stake: Winner will play the Pensacola Pine Forest/St. John’s Creekside winner on May 31 at 4 p.m.
There may not be a peskier team still in the tournament than the Warriors. They have had perhaps one of the more difficult roads to the region final. Osceola had to play No. 2 seed Northeast in the district semifinal and gave up two runs in the bottom of the seventh before winning 4-3. Then came a win over previously undefeated Mitchell in the district final. A big pitching effort by Corey Braun got them past Lennard. And a run in the bottom of the seventh allowed the Warriors to beat Braden River 5-4. Osceola throws strikes, rarely makes errors and gets key hits up and down the lineup. That will need to continue against Venice. The Indians ended the regular season with a 3-2, eight-inning loss to Jesuit. In four games after that, they have not allowed a run. That’s a stretch of 26 innings. Venice has only lost once at home, and that was to Calvary Christian.
Class 7A: Viera (21-8) at Leto (22-6)
At stake: Winner will play the West Boca Raton/Doral Academy winner on May 31 in Fort Myers at 7 p.m.
Like Strawberry Crest, Leto is trying to make it back to the state tournament. The Falcons got out of some jams to beat district rival Gaither in the region semifinal. They will have ace Christian Suarez (8-3, 1.33) available for this one. They haven’t erupted for many runs in the region tournament, but they have done enough. R.J. Gutierrez, Javy Hernandez, Damien Breton and Coltin Pizzio have all been tough outs. And Bryan Perez has smacked four home runs. Viera needed nine innings to get past Melbourne 2-1 on Saturday. Offense has been a strength, although they were held down by Melbourne. There are four .300 hitters in the lineup and the Hawks hit .305 as a team. Eric Allen will likely get the start for Viera. He threw seven innings and allowed two hits in the Hawks 8-1 region quarterfinal win over Pine Ridge.
Class 6A: Dunnellon (24-6) at Jesuit (24-5), 7:30
At stake: Winner will play the Eau Gallie/Miami Springs winner on May 31 in Fort Myers at 1 p.m.
The Tigers were one strike from not getting to the region final. But here they are. Jesuit scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to beat Jefferson 6-5. Last year, it was Jefferson that won the game and went on to win a state championship. For that to happen, Jesuit needs to start better. Against Jefferson, the Tigers left the bases loaded twice. They also need to overcome the loss of top hitter Bennett Lee, who broke his hand and is out for the playoffs. Jimmy Clifford filled in well at catcher. Corey Russo, who got the winning double against the Dragons, and B.J. Graham are swinging hot bats right now. Jesuit did have to use top pitcher Camden Minacci on Saturday, so he will have limited innings on Wednesday. Dunnellon lost to Springstead in the district final but has bounced back nicely. In the region semifinal, Dunnellon led North Marion 12-3 after three innings and hung on to win 16-13. Dunnellon can score, but can they keep Jesuit from scoring?
Class 6A: Cape Coral Mariner (25-4) at Dunedin (21-8), Frank Tack Park, Clearwater, Thursday
At stake: Winner will play the Lynn Haven Mosley/Jacksonville Paxon winner on May 31 at 10 a.m.
Normally, Dunedin has its graduation at Ruth Eckerd Hall in the morning. But a schedule conflict moved this year’s graduation to 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Hence, the Thursday game change. The Falcons had a tough road win 4-3 over Lake Wales to get to this far. They are trying to get back to Fort Myers for the first time since 2017. Tyler Vogel, who has been very sharp in the postseason, will get the start. There are good bats throughout the lineup, including Lake Fisher, Ray Sass, Tristan Morton, Connor Russell and Jonathan Hubbard. Playing at Tack Park should also be an advantage. Mariner needed extra innings just to get out of their district semifinal. Jimmy Meredith (8-0, 1.35) and Louis Alberro (9-1, 1.54) have been the top pitchers. Meredith is hitting .418 to lead the offense.
Class 5A: Melbourne Central Catholic (22-6) at Lakewood (17-11), Lake Vista Park
At stake: Winner will play the Walton/Suwannee winner on May 29 in Fort Myers at 10 a.m.
Lakewood coach Jayce Ganchou said his team has not yet played its best game. Now would be a good time to do that. Pitcher Scott Germak (92 strikeouts in 63 innings) will get the start and he needs to be sharp. Sophomore Oliver Hahn had two hits against Booker in the region semifinal, one of which was a long home run. Fellow sophomore Torry Jones is hitting .375. The Hustlers pitch well and get just enough offense to win. This will be one of the better teams Lakewood has faced this season.