BROOKSVILLE — Hernando senior Brandon Lawson didn’t need to overwhelm hitters in Thursday’s duel between North Suncoast aces.
He only needed to avoid mistakes and let an opportunistic offense and tight defense do the rest.
The USF signee followed his script, allowing only three hits and no walks in the Leopards’ 5-0 win over Wesley Chapel in Thursday’s Class 5A region quarterfinal.
“That’s Brandon Lawson,” Hernando coach Tim Sims said.
Lawson and the Leopards (23-5) eliminated the Wildcats (19-9) and advance to host Eustis in Tuesday’s region semifinal in a rematch of last week’s Class 5A, District 7 championship.
Lawson — the reigning North Suncoast pitcher of the year — started with two perfect innings and never faded in Hernando’s 10th consecutive win. He gave up a single to Sebastion Ferreiras in the third and another to Jared Crescentini in the fifth but forced the next two batters to ground into double plays.
“Everything was basically working for me,” said Lawson, a prospect in next month’s MLB amateur draft. “It was just a matter of letting them hit it, and things worked out the way it did.”
The senior right-hander faced only 22 batters in his complete game and struck out seven behind a powerful fastball, slick curveball and improved slider.
His 96-pitch gem improved his record to 7-0 and lowered his ERA to 0.29.
“That’s just Brandon,” catcher Jake Johnson said. “He’s that good.”
Lawson overshadowed a solid performance from Chase Ingram.
Wesley Chapel’s senior right-hander allowed a lead-off single to Florida signee Christian Arroyo and three consecutive walks to fall behind 1-0. But Ingram regrouped to strike out the side with the bases loaded to escape the first.
Ingram’s only other stumble came in the fourth. After a throwing error scored Rich Wilkes, Johnson launched a sky-high blooper that dropped between two fielders and into rightfield. His single scored two runs and was part of his three-RBI night.
Lawson completed the scoring with an RBI single in the sixth. He starred at the plate, too, going 2-for-2 with two walks, but his biggest impression came on the mound, where he displayed a tightening command and growing composure.
“He’s maturing right before our eyes,” Sims said.
More 5A: Pasco had a solid season in claiming its first district title since 2009, but the host team uncharacteristically allowed two unearned runs Thursday in a 3-1 Class 5A region quarterfinal loss to Eustis in Dade City.
“We made two mistakes, and a good team like that’s going to beat you,” Pasco first-year coach Pat Fortunato said.
The pitcher’s duel between Pasco’s Blaine Duncan and Wesley Moulden resulted in just six combined hits for both teams. Moulden (8-1) tossed a two-hitter with nine strikeouts, three walks and a hit batter. Duncan (7-1) was nearly as effective, allowing four hits while fanning five and walking three batters.
“That’s a really good pitcher,” Fortunato said. “He kept us off-balance.”
Pasco’s lone run came in the bottom of the sixth on Derek Dious’ line drive over the leftfield fence. Logan Johnson batted next and scorched a liner right at shortstop Jonathan Mosos. Those were the hardest-hit balls by the Pirates (20-9) all night.
Eustis broke open a scoreless game in the third when Moulden singled and pinch-runner Kyle Wiseman advanced to third on the first of three Pasco errors. Wiseman scored on a wild pitch, and the Pirates escaped further damage when Austin Simmons was thrown out trying to steal home with catcher Matt Plourde applying the tag.
The Pirates came undone in the top of the sixth when Chris Okey reached on shortstop Lane Stancil’s error and scored when Duncan threw wildly to second base as Alex Hagner drew a throw in between bases. Hagner, who singled and went to third on Duncan’s wild throw, then scored on a groundout by Max Sellers.
Plourde had Pasco’s only other hit, a single in the second.
6A: Mitchell tested but pulls out win
HOLIDAY — For a team that had only two hits Thursday, Sebring sure gave Mitchell a scare. Not until Cobi Johnson’s two-run single in the fifth inning did the Mustangs score, and the 4-1 Class 6A region quarterfinal victory was far from the foregone conclusion most presumed.
Sebring came in with a 10-17 record and Garrett DeRoss, who didn’t start a regular-season game.
But DeRoss also hadn’t given up an earned run. His good work in 12 innings out of the bullpen, combined with the Blue Streaks having no standout starter, earned DeRoss a shot in the district semis and he responded with a complete-game shutout.
The success story looked like it might continue Thursday at Mitchell’s expense. DeRoss struck out only two in the first four innings, but his defense was catching well-hit balls in the outfield and diving for great plays around him.
“We might have underestimated them a little bit,” said Johnson, the Mustangs ace who despite giving up one hit left after five innings. His fourth walk started the top of the fifth, and Sebring’s first hit followed as Matt Portis put runners at the corners.
Johnson got a groundout but then threw a wild pitch that put Sebring up 1-0.
“I just couldn’t throw strikes,” he said.
He made up for it in the bottom of the inning. Josh Lamb barely beat out a grounder for an infield hit with one out. Chris McCormick reached on a hit-and-run and DeRoss began to falter as his wild pitch moved both into scoring position.
Johnson then got a changeup that was up in the zone and smashed it into left for a 2-1 lead. The Mustangs added a run when Eddie Goscicki’s grounder was booted.
Mitchell (22-5) made it 4-1 on a couple more errors in the sixth but still had to sweat out the end as McCormick allowed two runners to reach. He struck out Jordan Austin to earn the save.
Blake Hart was 2-for-2 with a walk for the Mustangs. Johnson was credited with the win and finished with six strikeouts.
“Gotta tip your hat to them. Their pitcher kept us off balance,” Goscicki said. “They had a two-hour bus ride but weren’t flat at all. They definitely made us a little bit nervous.”
Correspondents Steve Lee and Darek Sharp contributed to this report.