Region baseball: Hernando edition
Coming Thursday: A closer look at Wiregrass Ranch and Mitchell
5A: Hernando (24-5) vs. St. Johns Creekside (21-10)
Skinny: The loaded Leopards have four college signees and continued their reign as the North Suncoast’s top program by clinching their fourth consecutive trip to the region final with a shutout win of Wesley Chapel and a gritty 3-1 win over Eustis. “It all starts with the coaching,” shortstop Christian Arroyo said. “You don’t come in here year in and year out and make it to the elite eight solely on talent.”
The headliner: Arroyo. The Florida signee and likely high MLB draft choice is one of the country’s leaders with 11 home runs. He also leads the Leopards with a .515 batting average and 33 RBIs.
Supporting cast: Right-hander Brandon Lawson is a USF recruit with an 11-0 record and two playoff victories. The Leopards’ other ace, Trae Ratliff, is as imposing, with a 1.80 ERA with 58 strikeouts. “Truly with our guys, it’s 1A and 1B,” coach Tim Sims said.
Unsung heroes: Catcher Jake Johnson and first baseman Brooks Timmons have combined to drive home 41 runs, with Johnson’s four-RBI night sparking a win over Eustis for the Class 5A, District 7 title. Don’t overlook Garrett Treverton at the bottom of the lineup (.438 on-base percentage).
Quotable: “This team’s something special.” — Lawson
6A: Springstead (18-8) at Orlando Edgewater (16-6)
Skinny: The Eagles had never won a playoff game before this season but have become one of Tampa Bay’s best stories. Springstead overcame early bumps from a coaching change, early tension and occasional lapses in effort to win the Class 6A, District 6 title and breeze to playoff victories over Gainesville and Citrus by a combined 16 runs. “I knew there was some talent there,” first-year coach Jim Diven said. “I thought we might have a chance to win the district. …I didn’t think we would be this deep into the tournament, truthfully.”
The headliner: Brandon Brosher. The Oral Roberts recruit and potential MLB draft pick is having an all-North Suncoast season: a .441 batting average and 26 RBIs to go with 80 strikeouts as a pitcher. He also threw a no-hitter against Lecanto.
Supporting cast: Pitcher Ryan Nicoll is one of Hernando County’s leaders with a 1.34 ERA while batting in 18 runs. Slugger Trent Wyzykowski has 21 RBIs, and infielder Nic Pasarela is batting .348.
Unsung heroes: Centerfielder Will Pagan made two highlight-reel catches in a win over Citrus for the district title, and Pasarela’s walkoff hit against Land O’Lakes changed the tone of his team’s season. Will Perdomo’s 12 RBIs and strong play at third base have made him a breakout player in his first season of high school ball. “Without him,” Diven said, “I don’t know if the season would have turned out the way it has.”
Quotable: “It’s a first-year coach’s dream.” — Diven