VALRICO — Bloomingdale went down early in its Class 6A region semifinal against Mitchell, and in the pitchers duel the matchup turned out to be, offensive opportunities were few and far between.
But the Bulls were patient, Bloomingdale coach Kris Wilken said, and all season, that’s been their key to victory. This time, they just needed a bit of a reminder.
In the second and third frames, Mitchell senior right-hander James Hill was dealing, and he struck out five batters in a row. Wilken addressed the Bulls’ at-bat mentality with his team.
“I thought at that point we were trying to do too much. Every guy was trying to be a hero and tie the game up with one swing,” Wilken said. “That’s not us. We play a very unselfish brand of baseball, and that’s what we needed to get back to.”
By the time the Bulls settled in and made it through the order once, they finally broke through. Bloomingdale senior second baseman Gabe Garrett had a leadoff single in the fourth, eventually scoring on a passed ball. Junior shortstop Colby Shelton, who walked, scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly, and Bloomingdale squeezed by the Mustangs 2-1.
The Bulls (21-6) will play Naples Gulf Coast in Saturday’s region final.
In the first inning Wednesday, Bloomingdale junior right-hander Jack Owens came out shaky, walking two before giving up an RBI single to give the Mustangs (22-7) an early lead.
Owens, though, only got better from there. He gave up just two more hits the rest of the night.
“I really liked how he was able to settle down,” Wilken said. “It’s a big game, they’re a really good team. For him to come out with a little bit of jitters, rocky that first inning — it wasn’t just him, it was everybody — and for us to settle in and just play.”
To Mitchell’s credit, Hill continued to make it tough on the Bulls following their go-ahead run, and although he gave up a single to Bloomingdale junior rightfielder Drake Harman in the top of the seventh, sophomore right-hander Aidan Miller got two big outs in relief to strand Harman on third base and prevent Bloomingdale from scoring any insurance runs.
But as the Bulls were soon reminded, sometimes two is all it takes.
“One little mistake or one little passed ball or one strike out can change the whole game,” said Owens, who gave up three hits and struck out six in six innings on the mound. “I’m really proud of these guys.”
Region baseball semifinals
7A: Durant 7, Sarasota Riverview 0
6A: Bloomingdale 2, Mitchell 1
5A: Land O’ Lakes 3, Ocala Vanguard 0
2A: Bishop McLaughlin 4, Northside Christian 3
2A: Seffner Christian 11, Winter Haven All Saints’ 2