Brandon and Bloomingdale appeared headed on a collision course for the Class 6A, District 6 final - until Bradenton Manatee struck for three seventh-inning runs Wednesday night.
Manatee's late outburst led to a 6-5 semifinal victory against Brandon, which ended its season 18-6 and with a game that came down to a few misfired throws and some timely Hurricane hitting.
"After the great season we've had it's tough to lose the last game with the throwing errors," Brandon coach Greg Parris said of the miscues, two of which led to a fifth-inning run and another that allowed a run in the seventh. "But you've got to give our guys credit. We battled back."
Brandon, the home team by virtue of its No. 1 seeding, came into the seventh trailing 6-3. The Eagles then scored two quick runs on an error and a couple of singles and had runners on second and third base with one out.
But Brandon's next two hitters, Matt Midkiff and Myron Leslie, grounded out sharply to end the game.
"We couldn't have asked for a better situation with (Midkiff and Leslie) hitting," Parris said. "They hit the ball hard but they hit it right at people."
Bloomingdale, on the other hand, was a team of good timing in its 7-5 victory against Sarasota Riverview.
The Bulls (16-8) were outhit 10-5, but were opportunistic as they scored six third-inning runs on a couple of hits, walks and errors.
Bloomingdale's defense also came up with some timely plays: Third baseman David Friedman made a couple of spectacular rally-killing saves, the Bulls infield turned two double plays, and the pitcher and catcher each picked off a runner.
"This team knows how to hang in there," Bloomingdale coach K.B. Scull said. "We made the plays when we had to."
Bloomingdale meets Manatee in tonight's final at 7:30 at Bradenton's G.T. Bray Park.
6A-5: Tech, Gaither
strike up offense
TAMPA _ Gaither's Shevin Craine led the Cowboys on the mound and at the plate to a 6-2 win over King in the semifinals. Tampa Bay Tech also got a solid pitching performance from Paul Williams, but it was the bats that really did the damage for the top-seeded Titans in a 12-3 win over Hillsborough.
The teams meet at Gaither at 8 p.m. Friday night to decide the district title.
With one out in the first, Craine hit a solo shot, his third of the season, to give the Cowboys a 1-0 lead. Gaither (15-8) then put three more runs on the board in the third courtesy of a Brad Wester hit and a single from Mike Chevalier that scored two more.
Craine (7-5) held the Lions (13-11) without a hit until the fourth inning on his way to a two-hitter. That first one was big _ a Logan Roberts double that knocked in two runs and cut the lead to 4-2. But King got no closer.
In addition to his home run, Craine singled twice and scored three runs. Wester also had three singles.
In the nightcap, Tech's Williams (5-1) threw a complete game, scattering nine hits and striking out eight. After giving up three runs in the first three innings, he settled down, allowing just one baserunner to reach third from the fourth inning on.
"Paul always starts a little shaky, but he's a fighter," Tech coach Glenn Alvarez said of his sophomore left-hander.
He also got a lot of help from the Titan (13-11) offense, particularly in the fifth inning. After two consecutive Hillsborough (14-11) errors started things off, Chris Figueredo singled in a run. Orly Tellado then singled in two more.
A Travis Clayor double followed, then Edwin Kain got a two-run single. Stephen Williams also had a run-scoring double. In all, the Titans collected seven runs on five hits in the fifth inning.
_ ERIC RANGUS
5A-11: Durant ousts Plant,
SEFFNER _ Durant left-hander Jeramy Gomer has built a reputation as a big-game pitcher, and in the Cougars' 5-1 win over Plant, Gomer lived up to his billing with a complete-game victory.
The senior held Plant (18-8) to one run on four hits while striking out 10 to help Durant send the Saladino Tournament champion to an early exit.
The Cougars (16-8) provided Gomer with a three-run cushion in the first inning, thanks in part to a two-run, opposite-field home run by Ryan Raburn. The Panthers answered with a solo homer in the third by Jonathan Cigarran but could score no more against Gomer.
"(Gomer) is one of the best pitchers in the county, and he's been there for us all season," Durant coach Gary Graham said. "He didn't have his real good fastball, but he still pitched out of jams. Getting an early lead helps make a very good pitcher a great pitcher, and those were big runs in the first."
Bryan Guilford added a homer in the fourth inning.
In the other semifinal, Lakeland Jenkins got a game-winning single from Jared Powers in the bottom of the seventh inning to defeat East Bay 5-4.
East Bay (6-16) tied the game with a two-run double by Chris Kiddy in the top of the sixth inning and had the go-ahead run on base with one out in the seventh. But Andy Beck was called out on a close play at second base on a steal attempt, and the Chiefs (20-9) rallied in the seventh to avoid the upset.
"We came out knowing if we got our leadoff man (Sheldon Fulse) on in the seventh, we could be aggressive with him," Jenkins coach Tim Hardee said.
Fulse barely beat a tag on a steal attempt at second and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Mike Tucker before Powers delivered the game-winning hit.
_ JOHN WING