TAMPA — There have been a lot of things against the Jefferson baseball team this season. The Dragons have essentially been homeless, as the field has been unplayable. That meant no home-crowd advantage, no regular infield-outfield practice and no taking practice on the field.
To the last point , though, 40-plus year Dragons coach Pop Cuesta isn’t all that upset.
“We’ve hit the ball real well the last three games, and maybe us hitting in the cages all that time is the reason,” Cuesta said. “Kids, when they come up to hit, they want to see how far the ball travels, so they forget about focusing on hitting, the right technique, the right approach.”
“In the cage, you just hit the ball on the nose, and maybe that’s helped us a little bit.”
The extra time in the cage paid off as Jefferson teed off on Class 6A-District 9 pitching this week, capped by an 11-1, six-inning district championship win against top-seeded King on Thursday night.
Jefferson (19-8) strung together 13 hits and took advantage of six Lions errors. Sophomore Tyler Jones held King (20-5) to one run on three hits for his third win of the year. Jones, who had three strikeouts in the game, including two in the final inning, said he was confident after his offense answered King’s one-run third with a four-run fourth inning.
“The momentum we had, I knew we were going to be very tough to beat after that,” Jones said. “Because we had a good lead and we were really ready to play.”
Senior Trey Robinson got things going for Jefferson, doubling in the first before scoring the first run on an error. Alejandro Martinez followed with an RBI single in the first to give the Dragons all the runs they needed behind Jones. Seven of Jefferson’s nine starters had hits, including three-hit nights from Jony Gonzalez and Daniel Almonte. Almonte sealed the early ending with an RBI double in the sixth to push the Dragon’s lead to a mercy rule 10 runs.
King third baseman Bubby Terp was 2-for-2 with a walk in the loss.
8A-7: Big third inning lifts Plant
TAMPA — The Class 8A-District 7 final between Bloomingdale and Plant went from close to blowout in a hurry during the third inning.
That is when Plant sent 13 hitters to the plate, eight of them collecting hits, and two — Cooper Dickens and Stephen Chamblee — collected two hits apiece.
By the time the dust settled, the Panthers had scored eight runs, which ended up being the difference in the final score: Plant 10, Bloomingdale 2.
“I think that’s the biggest inning we’ve had all year,” Plant coach Dennis Braun said. “We just got it going.”
Once Plant (22-5) posted a 9-0 lead after the third, it felt pretty comfortable with starter Chamblee getting steadily stronger as the game went on.
“I felt I had good movement, and I did a pretty good job of keeping the ball down,” said Chamblee, who scattered seven hits and improved to 7-1 on the season. “Overall, I feel good about where the team is at.”
He can also feel good about how he hit Thursday night, going 3-for-3 with and RBI and a run. Dickens went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs.
5A-8: Land O’ Lakes stops Sunlake 7-3
LAND O’ LAKES — Coming into the Class 5A-District 8 championship game, Land O’ Lakes coach Calvin Baisley knew his team was facing an evenly matched opponent in Sunlake. The teams had similar records and had split their two games in the regular season.
In this matchup, it was Land O’ Lakes taking advantage of some Sunlake miscues and pulling away for a 7-3 victory.
The Gators took a 2-0 lead on a Liam Heaney sacrifice fly and a Cameron Hilgenberg solo home run. The Seahawks battled back in their half of the second. Omar Cala scored on an Alex Anderson single, and in the third, Sunlake tied it on back-to-back doubles by Colton King and Zac Howard.
The Gators would go ahead in the fifth for good. RBI singles by Alex Reynolds and Heaney pushed the lead to two. An inning later, Kyle Sheffield, Reynolds, and Heaney knocked in runs on three consecutive hits to push the score to 7-2.
5A-9: Sandborn leads Jesuit to victory
TAMPA — Sophomore left-hander Michael Sandborn scattered four hits in a complete-game 6-2 victory for Jesuit against Robinson in the Class 5A-District 9 championship game.
The host Tigers (20-6) have won three consecutive district crowns. Each time, the Knights (9-15) were on the losing end.
Ryan McCullers drove in the first two runs for the Tigers with singles in the first and third innings. The senior catcher also picked off two runners at first base.
“He’s probably one of the best catch-and-throw guys, but what separates him from anyone else in the area is his leadership ability,” Jesuit coach Richie Warren said. “He’s probably got to make a sophomore starting a district final feel real comfortable.”
Jesuit broke a 1-1 tie with five runs in the third inning, capitalizing on three singles, two errors, two walks and two balks.
4A-10: Berkeley Prep edges TC 4-2
TAMPA — Berkeley Prep coach Justin Houston said his ace Dane Bosnic had his “C’’ game going.
Bosnic said he didn’t have his best stuff.
Bosnic’s “C’ game was enough as the Buccaneers won the Class 4A-District 10 title game, 4-2, against Tampa Catholic.
Bosnic wasn’t sharp, but he pitched his way out of jams and relied on the Bucs defense, which turned three double plays.
“I knew I didn’t have anywhere near my best stuff,’’ Bosnic said. “I just depended on my defense to come through. I knew we’d get some runs.’’
The Bucs took the lead for good in the fourth. Anthony Pellegrino and Casey Keller singled to lead the inning and both scored on a single from Bobby Albers, who had two hits on the night. Albers later scored on a squeeze.
3A-7: McLaughlin blanks Tampa Prep
SPRING HILL — Bishop McLaughlin took advantage of early fielding miscues, then held on for a 2-0 win against Tampa Prep in the Class 3A-District 7 final.
Junior Will Potosky pitched a complete game, five-hit shutout. The junior, who had been used during the regular season as the closer, kept Tampa Prep off balance with a change up that consistently caught the corner.
The Hurricanes (17-7) scored in each of the first two innings.
Zack Berglund led off the game by lining a single to center field. Zack Kampsen followed with a sacrifice bunt. An infield grounder led to an errant throw, allowing Berglund to score. In the second frame, RJ Perciavalle’s fly ball was dropped. After a single by Drew Stofanik, Perciavalle scored on Kampsen’s single.
The Terrapins (17-10) had leadoff base runners in the second and fourth innings, but were unable to get past second base. The Hurricanes’ win avenged the two losses to the Terrapins during the regular season.
2A-7: Bayshore Chr. edges Cambridge Chr.
TAMPA — Bayshore Christian and Cambridge Christian traded the lead a couple of times and stayed close until Bayshore finally sealed an 8-7 victory in the Class 2A-District 7 final.
In its last at-bat, Cambridge threatened with three runs and a runner at second base before Bayshore Christian’s Evan Holland got the last out to earn the victory. Holland came on in relief in the first inning and recorded the game’s final 21 outs. Holland also went 1-for-1 and scored three runs.
Cambridge (13-7) started the game by scoring four runs in the first inning, but Bayshore ((9-4) answered with three runs in the bottom of the first and took a 5-4 lead in the third.