TRINITY — Land O’Lakes and host Mitchell set up a Class 6A, District 10 final showdown with mercy-rule victories. The Gators finished off Sunlake 10-0 in six innings before the Mustangs followed suit beating River Ridge 11-1 in six.
Both teams are 21-5 and will turn the ball over to their No. 2 starters next after using their aces Wednesday. Each delivered as Zach Whitaker tossed a shutout and went 3-for-4 for Land O’Lakes, and FSU-bound Cobi Johnson was equally efficient for Mitchell.
Whitaker had two doubles and a triple, his two-RBI double making it 9-0 before Kyle Sheffield ended it with another double to the wall.
“I like this field,” said Whitaker, who earlier this season recorded the win along with having a four-hit night at Mitchell. “I had it working tonight. Once the changeup got going …that was as good as I’ve felt using that pitch since early in the season.”
In all, the Gators (21-5) collected seven doubles among their 13 hits. Whitaker allowed five hits (two each by Colton King and Zac Howard) with no walks and six strikeouts.
Starting the second time through the order LOL had four doubles in its first five at-bats. Alex Reynolds, Whitaker and Sheffield came consecutively in the four-run bottom of the third.
Mitchell jumped on Knights starter Jason Heinrich for three runs in the first. Marcus Begg (3-for-4, four RBI) and Eddie Goscicki had run-scoring singles followed by a sac fly from P.J. DeJesus. River Ridge answered with Harry Keslar’s RBI single, but on a Heinrich single — already the Knights’ fifth at the time — Mitchell’s Blake Hart gunned down Zach Starkey at home to end the inning.
After that both pitchers settled into grooves until the bottom of the fifth when Heinrich plunked Chris McCormick and walked Johnson. Begg crushed a double to straightway center to bring them home, and Goscicki’s single pushed the margin to 6-1.
Johnson struck out the side in an impressive top of the sixth, then drove in a pair of runs with a double in the bottom of the inning.
After that Begg added an RBI double and DeJesus finished the night with his two-run single.
Land O’ Lakes was 8-0 in district play this year.
5A-8: No trouble for top seeds
DADE CITY — The top seeds won in Wednesday’s Class 5A, District 8 semifinals, setting the stage for Friday’s championship game between No. 1 Pasco and No. 2 Wesley Chapel.
Host Pasco defeated Fivay 10-0 in five innings of the nightcap, which followed Wesley Chapel’s 2-0 shutout of Ridgewood.
For first-year Pasco coach Pat Fortunato, who spent six years as a Wesley Chapel assistant under coach Chuck Yingling, it will be a reunion of sorts. “It’s like playing my dad,” Fortunato said.
Left-hander Blaine Duncan pitched a one-hit shutout, striking out five with no walks in leading the Pirates (19-8) to their fourth win over the Falcons this season.
“I just go out there and do my job as usual,” he said.
Added Fortunato: “He threw strikes. He kept them off-balance and we played good defense.”
Pasco also played some pretty good offense, racking up 11 hits and 10 runs in a game shortened by the 10-run mercy rule. Logan Johnson hit a three-run home run in the fourth He also had a double and scored in a four-run first.
Also contributing to Pasco’s scoring outburst were A.J. Rainaldi, who had a two-run double and RBI single, and Robbie Hanlon, who singled twice, walked once and scored three runs.
In the first game, Chase Ingram pitched a five-hit shutout with eight strikeouts and no walks.
“He’s been efficient all year for us,” Yingling said of Ingram, who fanned Tristian Ficarro with the bases loaded and two outs to end the game.
The Wildcats (19-7) got both of their runs in the bottom of the fifth. Kyle Custer reached on an infield error, and Gabe Oritz singled with Custer scoring on another error and Ortiz racing home on Sebastion Ferreiras’ single.
5A-7: Leopards move on, Sharks falter
EUSTIS — Second-seeded Hernando advanced to the Class 5A, District 7 championship with a decisive 10-1 victory over sixth-seeded Tavares.
Senior Brandon Lawson was stellar, tossing a complete game while holding the Bulldogs (6-14, 1-8) to one run. He recorded 12 strikeouts and walked only one.
“Tavares has played us tough for three years now,” Hernando coach Tim Sims said. “We were fortunate to get out in front and score some tack-on runs. …A good win against an underrated tough, scrappy Tavares team.”
Hernando (21-5, 9-2) broke the game open in the first three innings, largely due to senior Christian Arroyo, who went 3-for-4 with five RBIs.
Arroyo led off the bottom of the first with a sharp double down the leftfield line and later scored on a wild pitch for a 1-0 lead. Arroyo crushed a grand slam over the left-centerfield fence in the second to give the Leopards a 5-0 lead, and he struck again in the third, delivering an RBI single for a 6-0 cushion.
“We came and we played well, and we got a lot of hits when we needed to in clutch situations,” Arroyo said. “We clinched our spot into regionals. …We’re going to try to win a district championship, since we lost last year, and get home-field advantage and make a run in the state playoffs.”
Junior Austin Treverton also delivered a two-run single for the Leopards.
In the nightcap, fifth-seeded Nature Coast (12-14, 3-10) fell 12-2 to top-seeded Eustis in 4 1/2 innings. The Panthers scored 12 runs in the first three innings. Eustis (21-7, 11-0) also cashed in on a plethora of Shark errors.
Drue Brooks belted a homer for Nature Coast, and Brandon Lamondra had an RBI single.
“We got 12 wins compared to seven last year,” Nature Coast coach Vito Tambasco said. “Next year I think we’ll be a lot stronger. …We just made too many errors right out of the gate.”
Correspondents Joseph Kornecki III and Steve Lee contributed to this report.