TAMPA — With a leadoff double followed by an RBI single, Lakeland Christian wasted no time proving exactly why it came into Tuesday’s Class 3A region semifinal against Berkeley Prep a one-loss, nationally-ranked team.
But nearly every time the Vikings found success at the plate, the Berkeley Prep bats were even busier in the bottom of the frame. The Bucs combined for 16 hits on the way to a 14-8 victory. Junior Gunnett Carlson led the way with four RBIs, and senior Knox Meier went 4-for-4 at the plate.
“It all started with competitiveness and confidence. They were nationally ranked (No. 12 by MaxPreps), but we knew we were better, and we wanted to win,” Carlson said. “We just hit everything. It was pretty exciting to watch.”
Prior to Tuesday’s matchup, the Vikings (26-2) — who came in with a 1.13 team ERA — hadn’t given up more than four runs in a single game all season. Berkeley Prep drew three straight walks to start, and three singles from the bottom of the order helped drive home four Bucs runs in the first inning alone.
In the next inning, Berkeley Prep (24-4) added four more runs, batting all the way through the order for the second of three times in the game. Throughout the night, some of Berkeley Prep’s bet at-bats came from the bottom of the order.
“It’s Berkeley baseball. We’re a team,” Carlson said. “Throughout the season, through the ups and lows, we’ve always been in it, not for each other but for the team, the name on our jerseys. It just shows how complete our team is.”
In the third inning, Lakeland Christian’s Brody Donay blasted a two-run homer to left-centerfield, and the Vikings blanked the Bucs in the bottom of the inning. In the fourth, Lakeland Christian added another pair of runs with the help of a couple Berkeley Prep errors to pull within one run.
A six-run fourth for the Bucs, however, all but took the wind out of the Vikings’ sails. Eight of Berkeley Prep’s nine starters recorded at least one RBI in the game.
Berkeley Prep’s offensive success against Lakeland Christian wasn’t exactly a surprise. Tuesday’s win marked the 10th time this season the Bucs recorded double-digit runs in a game. Berkeley Prep hitters were even hotter Tuesday, and after the Bucs gave up eight runs to the Vikings, LHP Will Parkinson pitched 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to bring the Bucs home.
That’s the kind of teamwork, Berkeley Prep coach Richie Warren said, that fuels greatness.
“The beautiful thing about our team is that there’s no one star. Nobody cares who gets the credit,” Warren said. “No one cares who gets the win, as long as the team won. And we did that.”
Region baseball semifinals
5A: Osceola 3, Cape Coral Island Coast 2
5A: Land O’ Lakes at Ocala Vanguard (ppd. until Wednesday)
5A: Jefferson 3, Jesuit 2
4A: Dunedin 6, Wesley Chapel 3
4A: Nature Coast 3, Rockledge 2
3A: Berkeley Prep 14, Lakeland Christian 8