Mitchell and East Lake remain the lone unbeatens as the season winds down.
1. Mitchell (19-0)
This week: Tuesday vs. Gulf, Wednesday at Dixie Hollins, Thursday vs. Fivay
Why they stayed put: The Mustangs had just one game last week, a 9-0 win over Zephryhills. Now comes three games in three days. All three teams have a losing record, so a loss this week would be an upset. There are three games again next week, so Mitchell will be able to give its pitching staff plenty of work before the district tournament.
2. East Lake (19-0)
This week: Wednesday vs. Clearwater, Thursday vs. Palm Harbor University, Friday vs. Wesley Chapel
Why they stayed put: A very busy week started off with a 9-0 win over St. Petersburg on Monday. That was the final Class 8A, District 7 game, so the Eagles will be the top seed in the district tournament. This is a tricky week in their quest to go undefeated in the regular season. Four games in a week stretches the pitching staff, and PHU is no pushover. East Lake will have to keep the bats hot the rest of the week.
3. Jesuit (18-2)
This week: Tuesday at Calvary Christian, Friday vs. Naples Gulf Coast, Saturday vs. IMG
Why they stayed put: There were two close wins last week for the Tigers, 4-2 over Robinson and 2-0 over Jefferson. Camden Minacci threw a complete-game four-hitter in the Jefferson game. He has been outstanding this season, with a 7-0 record and a 0.00 ERA. He likely will not get the start in this week’s big game against Calvary Christian.
4. Plant City (18-2)
This week: Tuesday vs. Hillsborough, Thursday at Lennard, Saturday at Armwood
Why they moved up: The Raiders keep on moving up. They beat a very good Bloomingdale team 2-1 last week. Jarod Wingo had two hits and an RBI in the game. He also pitched five strong innings. Cole Cothren is having a big offensive year (.434, 15 RBIs). Parker Messick is 5-1 with a 1.83 ERA.
5. Calvary Christian (17-3)
This week: Tuesday vs. Jesuit, Friday at Venice
Why they moved down: The Warriors beefed up their schedule this year, and this week proves it. Jesuit and Venice are both state tournament regulars. Last week started with a dramatic 6-5 loss to rival Clearwater Central Catholic thanks to a walk-off grand slam. But they rebounded with wins over Dunedin and Lakewood. Losing three games sounds like a lot for the Warriors lately, but they have come back after each loss with a win.
On the cusp
6. Springstead (18-2)
This week: Wednesday at Hernando, Thursday at Central
Why they stayed put: Last week started with a 5-4 win over Citrus. It ended with a 12-0 win over Nature Coast. The Eagles take a bit of momentum into the rivalry game against Hernando on Wednesday. The Leopards beat the Eagles by 10 runs in the first meeting, so expect Springstead to be a bit more focused this time around. Jiovel Lantigua now has 10 home runs, which is tops in the state.
7. Lennard (15-3)
This week: Tuesday vs. Durant, Thursday vs. Plant City
Why they moved up: There were two wins last week, including a closer-than-it-should’ve been 7-4 win over Brandon in nine innings. Plant City will be the big game this week. Hitting has not been a problem. The Longhorns have a .317 team batting average and are led by Levi Montero and his .520 average.
8. Leto (16-4)
This week: Tuesday vs. Newsome, Thursday vs. Middleton
Why they moved up: The Falcons have won four straight since a 13-inning loss to Bloomingdale. They are the top team in Class 7A, District 8. This year is shaping up a lot like last year, when they made a run all the way to the state tournament. Several of those players are back. Leto is a dangerous team this time of year.
9. Northeast (16-4)
This week: Tuesday vs. St. Petersburg, Wednesday vs. Gibbs
Why they moved up: The Vikings have won four straight since a loss to Calvary Christian. This week is all about finishing up their PCAC south schedule. They are the No. 2 seed behind Mitchell in Class 7A, District 10. If that is the district final, it should be a good game. Sophomore Brad Myers has made a big impact with a .414 average and four home runs.
10. Wharton (15-4)
This week: Wednesday vs. Alonso, Friday at Brandon
Why they moved down: The Wildcats surely wish they could have a do-over of last week. There was a nine-inning loss to Steinbrenner and a 4-3 loss to Strawberry Crest. It’s not going to get any easier against Alonso. They are still the top seed in Class 8A, District 4 despite the loss to Strawberry Crest. The focus now must be getting back on track before playoff time.
11. Sickles (4-14)
This week: Tuesday at Strawberry Crest, Wednesday at Bishop McLaughlin, Thursday at King
Why they stayed put: We went over the record last week (forfeits). The Gryphons have won four straight since the forfeits and none was close. Don’t expect blowouts this week, but this is not a team to mess with. Dylan Eskew is not only hitting .429 but he has six home runs. The pitching staff is deep, with Eskew, Chase Centala and Holden Wade eating up most of the innings.
12. Bishop McLaughlin (16-4)
This week: Wednesday vs. Sickles, Thursday at Wiregrass Ranch
Why they stayed put: The Hurricanes got a 4-3, eight-inning win over Seffner Christian last week. Now comes a very difficult game against Sickles. The bats have been hot in the second half of the season. There are three players hitting over .300 and Derick Stager is hitting .400. Junior Hunter Gillespie and senior Justin Koehler have been the aces.
13. Steinbrenner (15-3)
This week: Tuesday at Robinson, Wednesday at Brooks DeBartolo, Thursday vs. Riverview
Why they stayed put: Two of the losses were turned into wins due to the Sickles forfeits. But this is still a good team. The Warriors will be stretched this week. They have five players hitting over .300. Four pitchers have thrown at least 11 innings.
14. Durant (14-6)
This week: Tuesday at Lennard, Thursday vs. Strawberry Crest
Why they moved in: The Cougars have won three straight after losing two in a row. Two good teams await this week. Brendan Queens is hitting .370 to lead the offense. Pitching has been a bit up and down this season.
15. Hernando (16-5)
This week: Wednesday vs. Springstead, Thursday at Weeki Wachee
Why they stayed put: The Leopards went to Key West and split two games. We’ll blame the first loss on travel. They need to be rested up for the rematch against Springstead on Wednesday. Dylan DuPhily and Broc Valdez are both hitting over .400.
On the bubble
Bloomingdale (12-7), Cypress Creek (14-6), Gaither (13-5), Land O’Lakes (13-4), Newsome, Berkeley Prep (13-6), Durant (14-6), Riverview (13-6)