It was a fitting end to a very familiar district championship game. David Bradbury hit a comebacker to Shaun Shafer, who fielded it cleanly and fired to Boof Bonser at first for the final out.
Shafer had come full circle. Starting his first game since pulling his hamstring in the Georgiadis Tournament, the sophomore put the finishing touches on a four-hitter.
But more important, Shafer, whose older brother Chris played at Dixie Hollins, led Gibbs to its first district title since 1992 with an 8-1 victory over the Rebels Thursday night at Lake Vista Park.
Dixie Hollins repeated as the Class 5A, District 10 runner-up. Before that, Dixie pounded Gibbs for district titles in 1996 and 1994 winning by a combined score of 20-6.
This time, it was the Gladiators' night as they won the season series 2-1.
Shafer (3-2), the No. 3 starter, allowed two hits in the third inning and two in the fifth as the teams played through a steady downpour for much of the game. Shafer, who finished with just two strikeouts, relied on the defense behind him and the potent bats of Leo Neuner and Bonser. Shafer also helped himself with a two-run double in the fifth.
"That was a gutsy performance," Gibbs coach Bob Shaw said. "His location was just great."
Gibbs took control of the game in the third inning. Neuner hit a sacrifice fly and Bonser followed with a three-run homer to centerfield _ his seventh long ball of the season.
Neuner pounded out two hits and scored twice, including the game's first run in the first inning.
"He is our unsung guy," Shaw said. "In the clutch, he is the guy I want there."
Bonser wasn't too shabby either. The sophomore reached base four times, drove in four runs and scored three times.
Gibbs drew six walks along with two hit batters. The Gladiators turned four of those into runs.
"We didn't get it done on the mound to start the game," Dixie Hollins coach Jonathan Wiggins said. "We gave them too many free base runners."
Gibbs will play host Tuesday to the loser of tonight's District 9 game between Countryside and Seminole. Dixie Hollins plays the winner of that game.
4A-12: Jesuit tops
Osceola for crown
TAMPA _ Rain shut down play for nearly an hour during the third inning between Jesuit and Osceola. The host Tigers then proceeded to shut down Osceola.
Third-ranked Jesuit secured its fourth straight district crown with a 7-2 victory over the Warriors, and will host a regional quarterfinal game Tuesday against the 4A-11 runner up. The Tigers (25-5) are looking to extend their state-record string of state final four appearances to seven. Jesuit has advanced to the regionals each year since 1991, ironically the senior year of Minnesota Twins star Brad Radke.
"This is important because it means that we'll be playing at home next week," said Jesuit coach John Crumbley, who guided his club to state titles in 1994 and again last year.
The Tigers led 1-0 when the game was delayed for 50 minutes before their half of the third inning, and when play resumed, broke open the contest with two runs in both the third and fourth. In the third, Ryan Glover had arun-scoring single and scored on a triple by Bryan Koehler.
Jesuit (25-5) took a 5-1 lead in the fourth, thanks in large part to an Osceola error on a doubleplay ball. Andrew Shafii drove in a run with a groundout, and Jeff Christy, who drove in the first Jesuit run in the first with a double, followed with a run-scoring sacrifice fly.
The teams exchanged a pair of runs in the sixth, perhaps because the rain resumed and made the ball difficult to throw accurately. Each team had three errors in the inning, with the bulk of them coming on throws.
Koehler went the distance for Jesuit on a yield of four hits. The U.S. Naval Academy-bound senior walked just one batter and fanned seven.
"That was a complete performance," Crumbley said of Koehler, who also helped his own cause with three hits. "Bryan's had a nice year."
Osceola coach Chris Wiseman was disappointed in his team's defensive effort, but is pleased that the Warriors are still alive in the tournament.
"We've got to go back to the drawing board and work on our fundamentals," he said. "If we come out and play the way we did tonight, and keep our defense intact, we'll have a good chance (of advancing)."
Osceola starter Jarrett Gurski took the loss, allowing eight hits. He struck out two and allowed two bases on balls. Gurski also had the lone extra-base hit for the Warriors, who are now 13-15 overall. Gerald Frazier had a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
_ TODD TUBERGEN
3A-9: CCC drops
TAMPA _ The wind was blowing out early at Berkeley Prep's Carson Field and Clearwater Central Catholic was able to take advantage of it, hitting three solo home runs in the first three innings to spark a 5-2 victory over Berkeley in the championship game.
The district title is the third in a row for the Marauders.
Chris Hart hit a leadoff homer off Berkeley's Adam Prida in the bottom of the first to put CCC up right from the start.
CCC added two more runs in the third when Jeff Probst and Aaron Diehl hit back-to-back home runs.
Diehl was also spectacular on the mound throwing a complete game allowing only two hits and striking out 11. During one stretch he struck out six Buccaneers in a row.
Berkeley scored one in the second inning when Ryan Dixon doubled and later scored on an infield single by Steve Gendron.
The Bucs only other run came in the sixth when Diehl walked three batters and unleashed a wild pitch that went to the backstop allowing Alex Sullivan to score.
CCC coach Todd Vaughan said the three home runs were huge for his team.
"We knew they were going to throw Prida the off-speed left-hander," he said. "We told the guys to just stay in there and go with what he gives you. And all three of our homers ended up going the other way."
_ KEITH PEARLMAN
A-10: Kiefer lifts Chargers
ST. PETERSBURG _ Host Shorecrest combined timely hitting with progressively stronger pitching in the championship game for an 11-4 win over Keswick Christian.
With the wind blowing out, three long balls left the park, the longest a 385-foot shot over the centerfield fence by Shorecrest pitcher Byron Kiefer in the sixth inning, which increased the Chargers' lead to 9-4. But it was Kiefer's steady pitching, scattering hits, that kept the Crusaders in check.
The other homers were hit by Keswick's Rob Verigan in the third _ a three-run shot that got Keswick back into the game. And one in the fifth inning by Shorecrest eighth-grader Sean Wiggins, that went over the leftfield fence on a line.
But the big bat for Shorecrest was swung by second baseman Ryan McBee, hitting out the No. 9 position. He went 4-for-4, including a triple to deep center, scored three times and had an RBI.
Chargers coach Bill Van Aman needed all the firepower he could find because Keswick kept coming back from a 6-1 deficit in the second inning.
"We've learned that no lead is safe with Keswick," said Van Aman, who won his first district title since 1995. "They score runs in bunches. I was never comfortable with our lead.
"As for Ryan McBee's contribution, it was his best hitting game all season. He couldn't have picked a better time to do it. That was a good spark for our team."
Both Shorecrest (17-8) and Keswick (12-8) move on to the regionals. Shorecrest will play at home on Tuesday at 4 p.m., and the Crusaders will travel to a site not yet determined.
_ DAVE THEALL