Through nearly five innings, the Mitchell High baseball team just could not find the magic that carried the club to 22 victories before Thursday’s Class 6A-Region 3 quarterfinal matchup against Sebring.
The Mustangs were able to find the touch in the bottom of the fifth inning, as they were able to gather four hits and three runs en route to a 4-1 victory against Sebring at Anclote. The game was played at Anclote because of field problems at Mitchell.
“That happens to us sometimes,” Mitchell coach Scott Wilcox said. “We always have the confidence, though, that they will come alive. We were putting good swings on them but just missing some pitches. (The Sebring) pitcher did a good job of moving the ball and keeping our guys off balance.”
Sebring (10-18) held Mitchell to a mere two hits through four innings. Mitchell (23-5) did an equally good job, allowing just two hits for the entire game.
Sebring took a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning when Ty Little scored on a wild pitch thrown by Mitchell starting pitcher Cobi Johnson (90 pitches, seven strikeouts). Mitchell finally came alive offensively in the bottom of the frame when Johnson doubled home Josh Lamb and Zack Vacca, and the Mustangs would add another run.
An insurance run was tacked on in the bottom of the sixth.
“It’s a big win for our school,” Johnson said. “I think we underestimated them a little bit coming in. We just needed our bats to come alive and once that happened we were all right.”
All season, Pasco had great hitting. The Class 5A-Region 2 quarterfinal was just a bad time to have an off night offensively.
Eustis pitcher Wesley Moulden pitched a complete game, holding the Pirates to just two hits, and struck out nine as the Panthers defeated Pasco, 3-1.
“That’s one really good pitcher,” Pirates first-year coach Pat Fortunato said of Moulden. “He threw 2-1, 3-1, 3-0 change-ups. He’s really good. ... Tonight was a bad time not to have the bats we’ve always had.”
Moulden (8-1) allowed just one hit — a Matt Plourde single in the second inning — until Derek Dious lasered a home run over the left-field fence in the sixth inning.
“I think that the caliber of competition the players faced this year was very good,” Fortunato said, “and they’ll come away from this season better because of it. ... That’s a good Eustis team that can play. They shouldn’t hang their heads because of a loss to that team.”
Despite the score, the Pirates (20-9) got a solid start from senior southpaw Blaine Duncan (7-1). He threw 102 pitches — 60 for strikes — in a complete game. Duncan struck out five and allowed one earned run, four walks and four hits. He and Plourde also kept another run off the board when the two caught Austin Simmons trying to steal home in the third.
“What a great pitcher and kid,” Fortunato said of Duncan. “Other coaches are always asking me where he’s pitching in college, and it’s a shame he doesn’t have offers to do so. He kept a 16-home-run team off balance and still pitched a heck of a game.”
Eustis (22-8) scored twice in the sixth, plus got on the board first in the third when Duncan threw a wild pitch that allowed the runner at third to score. However, Fortunato was pleased with his first season at the helm that resulted in a district title.
“It was a great first year,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys or wouldn’t want a different team.”
Wesley Chapel came into the Class 5A-Region 2 quarterfinals sporting a healthy .345 team batting average.
But against Hernando senior right-hander Brandon Lawson, the Wildcats failed to get a runner as far as second base.
Lawson, a USF signee, limited Wesley Chapel to three singles in a complete-game effort, facing one batter over the minimum in a 5-0 victory for the host Leopards.
Starter Chase Ingram gave up an early run for the Wildcats (19-9), walking three straight batters after a leadoff single before striking out the side in the bottom of the first.
A two-out throwing error by the shortstop opened the door for Hernando (23-5) to score three times in the fourth, and Lawson tacked on a run on a single in the sixth.