TAMPA — For the first three innings of Thursday’s Class 6A region quarterfinal, Jefferson looked very much like a district champion while Osceola looked like a flustered team whose bus was an hour late.
By the end of the fourth inning, things changed dramatically. The Warriors scored five unearned runs in the fourth to erase a two-run deficit. It was the clear turning point in their 7-3 win, which sends Osceola to Tuesday’s semifinal against King.
“We started a little slowly but the second time around we settled down and started to play some good baseball,” Osceola coach Stefan Futch said. “We were hoping to get a spark somewhere and we finally got it.”
The game started an hour late because there was no bus scheduled to pick up Osceola. The Warriors looked a little rusty in the first inning.
Starter Keith Weisenberg gave up consecutive hits to leadoff hitter Jose Cuellar and Trey Robinson. A wild pitch put runners on second and third, and Nelson Maldonado followed with a groundout to first that scored Cuellar.
Weisenberg, who struggled with control early, threw a wild pitch that bounced away from catcher Mike Kleinman and allowed Robinson to score and put the Warriors in a quick 2-0 hole.
Trailing 3-1 in the fourth, Johnathon Diaz struck out the first two Osceola batters. It looked as if he would retire the side in order when Buddy Dougherty hit a high fly to shortstop. But Cuellar dropped the ball.
Jake Rek walked and Joey Coca singled home a run to make it 3-2. Diaz then balked home a run to tie the score at 3. He was relieved by Jordan Norman, who didn’t have much luck either.
Abiezer Jimenez singled home Coca to make it 4-3. Jaret Helinger tripled to left for another run, and Helinger scored on an RBI double by Kleinman. Six straight Osceola batters reached base with two outs before Jefferson ended the inning.
“(Cuellar) makes that play 99 out of 100 times,” Jefferson coach Pop Cuesta said. “Then they get a walk and then a hit and then a balk and then a hit. Hey, that’s baseball.”
Osceola tacked on a run in the sixth when Rek scored on a throwing error to first base. Of Osceola’s seven runs, only one was earned.
Jefferson had a chance in the sixth inning when it loaded the bases with two outs. But Daniel Almonte flew out to deep centerfield to end the threat.
Weisenberg pitched seven innings and struck out 10, including the final three batters he faced. But he did walk six, threw three wild pitches and had two errant pickoff attempts.