LUTZ — Logan LaPace could hardly settle himself long enough to sleep, he was so ready to take the mound Thursday.
But when steady rain left Steinbrenner’s baseball field a virtual mud puddle, LaPace was forced to wait another couple of days to take the mound.
“I was really disappointed that I didn’t get to throw Thursday,” LaPace said. “I had never pitched in a big game like this and I just wanted to get out here and get after it.”
What’s a couple of days when LaPace and the Warriors have been waiting four years?
LaPace allowed only four hits in seven innings, Jesse Haney hit a two-run homer and Steinbrenner won its first playoff game in program history Saturday, 6-1 over Seminole in their Class 7A region quarterfinal.
Steinbrenner (24-2) will host Wiregrass Ranch on Tuesday night. Wiregrass Ranch, which lost to Steinbrenner in the 7A-9 district tournament final, beat Countryside 5-2 Saturday.
The Warriors had never advanced out of the district tournament in the past three years, losing one-run games in their past two semifinal appearances.
Things are different this year, with four-year varsity members like LaPace, Haney and Chase Turner leading the way. The Warriors rolled through much of the regular season and the district tournament, even moving to No. 19 in MaxPreps’ poll of the top 25 teams in the country.
Steinbrenner essentially took all the drama out of the matchup in the first three innings, getting a boost from an offense that’s now averaging more than nine runs per game.
Haney doubled in the Warriors’ first run in the first inning and followed up with a two-run shot over leftfield fence in the third, giving Steinbrenner a 5-1 lead.
“It was just a 3-2 count and I knew he had to come to me,” Haney said of Seminole starter Nick Nolan. “I didn’t know what it was until I got to first base and then I saw it went over the fence.”
Nolan, a Hillsborough Community College signee, was removed from the game in the fourth inning after Alex Hanson’s RBI single.
It was a disappointing finish for Seminole (20-8), which had won six of its past seven before falling 3-0 to Countryside in the 7A-10 district final.
“We ended on a downward trend,” said Seminole coach Jeff Pincus, who finished his second year. “We just didn’t get it done.”
The Warhawks were the first team to defeat Jesuit, then ranked No. 1 in at least two national polls. And it was Nolan who pitched them to that victory.
But their senior ace didn’t have enough to hold off Steinbrenner’s powerful offense, and LaPace finished strong over the final three innings.
At one point, LaPace retired 11 straight batters before allowing a leadoff single in the seventh. Then he got out the next three hitters for the win.
7A: Early failure costly in Brandon’s loss
BRANDON — Haines City’s Dalton Scarborough pitched a three-hit complete game Saturday, beating Brandon 6-1 to dash the Eagles’ hopes of returning to the state finals.
“They took it to us and we didn’t have an answer,” Brandon coach Matt Stallbaumer said.
Haines City led 4-0 by the third inning, with Walter Vasquez driving in all four runs. The designated hitter, who bats fifth, had a two-run single in the first and two-run triple in the third.
Keshawn Lynch, who went 3-for-4, scored three runs for the Hornets. He came in on both of Vasquez’s hits, stole two bases and played solid at shortstop.
The early lead made it tough on the Eagles, who had base runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the first but failed to score.
“They quickly dictated what we talk about in our locker room all the time — tempo,” Stallbaumer said. “We felt we had our opportunity and we didn’t answer.”
Brandon (19-7) capitalized on two Haines City errors for its lone run in the sixth. Troy Linderman reached on an infield error, moved up on a bunt and Miguel Fajardo’s single and raced home on another infield error. That threat ended when Jacob Sugden grounded into a double play.
Eric Hinostroza doubled and Jordan Feist bunted for a single to account for Brandon’s other two hits.
7A: Short, but not sweet outcome
LAKELAND — An hour before the suspended Class 7A region quarterfinal game resumed Saturday afternoon, George Jenkins coach Jim Kilbourn called Chris Starr into his office.
He told Starr, who was due up, to lay down a squeeze bunt with runners on first and third and two outs.
It only took the speedy centerfielder one pitch to lay a perfect bunt down the third-base line, and the Eagles (23-5) walked off with a 3-2 win over Plant City (13-13).
“I didn’t think it would go that perfect, but hey, we got the win and we’re moving on,” said Starr, who struck out in his previous three at-bats on Thursday.
It was a strange journey for the Eagles leading up to Starr’s heroics, with the umpires stopping the game in the bottom of the seventh on Thursday after George Jenkins tied it on Sayge Woodham’s RBI single.
Umpires originally reverted the game back to the sixth inning in which Plant City led 2-1 Thursday, giving the Raiders the win. But shortly after the game was called, the FHSAA informed George Jenkins athletic director Jestin Bailey that the umpires had misapplied the rule, and the game would resume at the point of suspension, with Starr at the plate.
3A: Early lead doesn’t hold up for Phoenix
Nolan Grant drove in the winning run with a single in the ninth inning Saturday and Santa Fe Catholic (21-7) advanced with a 4-3 victory over Brooks DeBartolo.
The Phoenix (10-12) took a 3-1 lead into Saturday’s game, which initially started Thursday, and had a man on third base with one out in the fifth inning. Bruno Dezayes got out of that inning with two strikeouts and gave up just two singles the rest of the way. One of those hitters was erased by a double play, and the other was caught stealing by catcher Austin Barnes.
Dariel Fonseca’s two-run home run off Eric Barnes, Santa Fe’s starting pitcher, had given the Phoenix a 3-0 lead in the first inning Thursday night.
Correspondent Steve Lee contributed to this report, which uses information from the Ledger.