WHARTON AT EAST LAKEOUTLOOK: The Wildcats were the surprise team of the area’s toughest district tournament after going 0-10 against Class 8A-District 7 opponents during the regular season. East Lake (23-3) is 14-1 at home this season. Wharton senior hitters Reed Gray, Ryan Lawson and Alex Kranick will need to step up against East Lake’s pitching.
SARASOTA RIVERVIEWAT DURANTOUTLOOK: The Cougars will likely turn to pitcher Tyler Danish (10-1, 0.00 ERA) to take on the Rams (20-6). Durant (21-5) has reached the playoffs three of the past four years, and this is the first time 12-year coaching veteran Butch Valdes has taken a district title. With a pair of solid aces in Danish and Chaz Fowler, the Cougars have high hopes in tournament play.
6A-3LETO AT SEMINOLE OSCEOLAOUTLOOK: The Falcons have been relying on senior ace Jose Pupo, but they have started to come together as a team at the right time. Although Pupo will most likely be heavily relied on for the Falcons’ postseason chances, solid hitting and strong defense behind him has Leto (13-11) looking for its first postseason win in 12 years.
DIXIE HOLLINS AT KINGOUTLOOK: Senior ace and Florida commit Brett Morales has been solid, and King (22-3) has a complete squad. Its top three hitters, Devon Pedro, Sam Rowe and Tanner Williams, have been teeing off on opposing pitchers. Dixie Hollins (10-13) has a solid pitcher in John Hollis who, despite a 4-5 record, has 63 strikeouts in 58 innings. Senior Nick Stanney leads the hitters with a .439 average and 15 RBIs.
4A-3TAMPA CATHOLIC AT LAKE PLACIDOUTLOOK: The Crusaders’ offense couldn’t get started in the district final, falling 6-0 to Berkeley Prep. Tampa Catholic (15-11) seniors Dre Leal (.389, 16 runs, 12 RBIs), Jorge Romero (.338, 13 RBIs) and junior Paulie Russo (.307, 16 runs) need to get the offense going against Lake Placid (13-11). The Dragons topped DeSoto County 11-0 in the district final and have five players in double-digit runs scored and RBIs this season.
ARCADIA DESOTO COUNTY AT BERKELEY PREPOUTLOOK: The Buccaneers took out both Sarasota Booker and Tampa Catholic in the district tournament after losing a coin flip to the Crusaders and having to play the extra game. Berkeley Prep (13-14) struggled at the end of the season. However, in defending the district crown, the Buccaneers hope to be back on track behind a solid nine-strikeout shutout performance from Donte Bosnic. DeSoto County (11-12) has senior Garrett Anderson as its leading pitcher, going 5-2 on the year.
THURSDAY7A-2PLANT CITY AT LAKELAND JENKINSOUTLOOK: Plant City (13-12) got just what it needed from its senior leader when Kevin Long tossed a two-hit shutout as the Raiders topped Hillsborough 1-0 in the district semifinals. Long (7-3, 0.87 ERA) has also been producing at the plate for the Raiders, hitting .364. Jenkins (22-5) is ranked No. 16 in the state behind solid pitching from junior Florida State commit Drew Carlton (8-1, 0.48 ERA) and senior Reed Roberts (6-0, 2.12 ERA).
HAINES CITY AT BRANDONOUTLOOK: The Eagles reached the Class 7A state final last season. Brandon (19-6) has a lot of youth, but a lot of those young players were a part of last season’s success. Staff ace Eric Hinostroza (8-0, 0.72 ERA) has had plenty of help on the mound from junior Ryan Anderson and freshman Antonio Velez. Haines City (16-11) fell to Jenkins 15-5 in the district final, but the Hornets played spoiler to Bartow in the district semis.
SEMINOLE AT STEINBRENNEROUTLOOK: The Warriors moved to No. 19 in the nation in this week’s MaxPreps.com national poll. Steinbrenner (23-2) gets power from Cole Gordon (.421, seven home runs, 31 RBIs) and Alex Hanson (.487, 27 runs and 32 RBIs) and strong pitching from Gideon Dunn (9-0) and Logan LaPace (7-2). Seminole (20-7) had solid wins against Venice and Jesuit this season and boasts a talented offense led by Mississippi commit Corey Baptist (.455, 24 runs, 28 RBIs), North Florida commit Alex McGathey (.310, 25 runs, 18 RBIs) and South Florida commit and catcher Michael Mann (.306, 15 RBIs).
5A-3ROBINSON AT DUNEDINOUTLOOK: The Knights got past Blake 3-2 in the district semifinals, as Caleb Rankin tossed a complete game. The Knights will need senior offensive leaders Brad Whiteside, Zach Sabo and Jacquari Mattox to step up to reach the next level. Robinson topped Dunedin (16-10) in last year’s region quarterfinal, 4-3 in extra innings. The Falcons have won four straight and most likely will look to pitcher Alex Chesson for the start. Chesson was key with his bat in the Falcons’ district final, with two triples and two RBIs in the 8-2 win.
LAKEWOOD AT JESUITOUTLOOK: Jesuit (24-2) stumbled at the end of the year, falling to talented teams in Seminole and Venice, and was also tested in the district tournament by Lennard and Robinson. The Tigers, currently ranked No. 11 nationally, have hitters worth mentioning sitting on the bench and a staff of pitchers who would be aces all over the area. Jesuit has a lot of experience, reaching the final four a season ago, but also has a lot of lofty goals and will need to find a rhythm in the postseason. Lakewood (14-12) fell to Dunedin in the final but has had solid run-scoring all season, as shortstop Copeland Cornelius is hitting .517.
3A-2BROOKS-DEBARTOLO AT LAKELAND SANTA FE CATHOLICOUTLOOK: The senior class for Brooks-DeBartolo (10-11) has been leading the team all year, as Davyon Dozier and Brenden Rivera have set the pace offensively and pitcher Shane Jeffcoat has had a solid season. Santa Fe Catholic (20-7) has had a good season and is looking for it to continue. The Hawks have nine batters in double-digits in runs and RBIs.
LAKELAND CHRISTIAN AT TAMPA PREPOUTLOOK: Tampa Prep (19-8) is looking to return to the state final four again after falling in the state semifinals in 2012. Sam Martin and Matt Hodges have been solid for the offense, while Martin has been leading the Terrapins. Lakeland Christian (19-7) went 9-0 in district play before losing to Santa Fe in the final. The Vikings have been led this season by Rafael Bournigal, with 22 runs scored and 28 RBIs.
2A-2BAYSHORE CHRISTIAN AT WINTER HAVEN ALL SAINTSOUTLOOK: Bayshore Christian (7-13) has had some solid wins this season. Evan Courtney is leading the offense, hitting .487 with 17 runs and 19 RBIs. All Saints’ (10-13) cruised to a 14-0 win against Victory Christian after going 4-0 in district play.
LAKELAND VICTORY CHRISTIAN AT CAMBRIDGE CHRISTIANDoc Nance Field, 4 p.m.OUTLOOK: Cambridge Christian (13-9) has a potent offense led by senior Zach Hessinger (.460, 20 runs, 22 RBIs) and junior Levi Gilcrease (.490, 24 runs, nine RBIs and five home runs). Senior Nick Eicholtz has led the Lancers pitchers, going 3-0 in seven starts with a 0.42 ERA and 57 strikeouts. Victory Christian (7-9) is 1-7 on the road this season and is coming off a lopsided loss to All Saints’.