Wharton High School's defense of its Class 8A-District 7 baseball title got off to a solid first-week start with a no-hitter by pitcher Collin Brich.
A senior right-hander, Brich threw a five-inning, no-hitter in the Wildcats' 13-0 win against neighborhood rival Freedom. He threw 74 pitches, striking out seven and walking just one.
Brich pitched well again in his followup, but ended up with a no-decision in Wharton's 3-2 loss against Alonso. Brich again threw five innings, but this time allowed five hits and two runs while striking out one.
Wharton, which has dropped two of three games since its two opening-week wins, hosts Bloomingdale tonight.
A first for Wildcat basketball program
Speaking of Wharton, coach Tommy Tonelli and the Wildcats basketball program are on the way to their first state final four.
Wharton (24-4) survived a late basket that did not beat the buzzer to hang on for a 41-39 victory against Orlando University. After coming close to a state appearance in 2007 and 2011, the Wildcats, and longtime coach Tonelli, have finally made it to Lakeland.
Wharton will face South Miami at 7 tonight at the Lakeland Center. Another win and Wharton will advance to Saturday's state championship game against the Oviedo Hagerty-Deerfield Beach winner.
Jesuit boys also headed to state
The Jesuit boys are going to the state basketball final four for the first time since 1985 after a 97-72 crushing of Lake Wales in the Class 5A region finals. The same Lake Wales program ended the Tigers' playoff run last year, 76-35 in the 2012 region final.
This time, however, Jesuit (29-1) jumped ahead 9-1 in the game's opening moments, led by 15 at the half and cruised to the blowout win. The Tigers nailed 11 3-pointers and played lights-out defense.
Travis Johnson led all scorers with 32 points while Jack Fleming hit eight 3-point shots to finish the game with 27 points.
Jesuit plays Jacksonville Bishop Kenny today at 11:30 a.m. A win in the state semifinal and Jesuit moves on to the Saturday morning's state championship game against the Plantation American Heritage-Palatka winner.
In other boys regional finals, both Tampa Prep and Berkeley Prep suffered close losses.
Tampa Prep (27-3) won't get a chance to defend its Class 3A state crown after losing 37-35 on a buzzer beater to Melbourne Florida Air Academy.
Berkeley Prep (22-8) saw its chance of advancing to the state final four slip away in its 51-44 loss to Boca Raton St. Andrew's in the Class 4A region finals.
Freedom girls come close in semifinals
Georgetown University signee Faith Woodard scored 26 points and pulled down 15 rebounds, but it wasn't enough to overcome a sluggish start as Freedom's girls basketball team lost 79-73 to Gainesville Buchholz in the Class 7A state semifinals.
Freedom's season ended with a 25-4 record.
The Patriots trailed throughout the game, and they were down by as many as 19 points late in the third quarter.
A rally made it a close game in the fourth quarter. Freedom got within five points of Gainesville, but couldn't pull off the comeback.
Standout sophomore Taylor Emery added 21 points and eight rebounds for Freedom.
National rankings for softball champs
Two bay area softball programs are ranked in the MaxPreps' Xcellent 25 rankings. And both squads, Chamberlain and Durant, are defending state champions.
Chamberlain, which won the Class 7A state title last season, checked in at no. 15 nationally in the initial poll. Durant, the defending 8A champ, came in at no. 22.