Durant, Plant City and Strawberry Crest began their respective district tournaments Monday and Tuesday.
Three Plant City-area baseball teams entered the 8A-4 and 8A-6 district tournaments this week. By Tuesday night, only one — Strawberry Crest — had left the semifinal round with a championship game berth, though Durant and Plant City fought hard through their semifinal rounds.
Durant, hosts of the 8A-6 tournament, kicked things off with a 4-2 quarterfinal win over East Bay on Monday afternoon.
Arpod Zsold’s RBI single in the first inning scored Ahmad Fitts and gave the Cougars an early 1-0 lead. The Indians tied things up in the top of the fourth when Anthony Diaz’s hit sent Justin Soto in to score, but Durant pulled ahead for good in the bottom of the sixth inning when Jared Mejia, Zsold and Dalton Marsh scored runs with help from RBI from Coleton Brogden and Frankie Martinez. East Bay put one more run on the board in the top seventh with Noah Medina’s RBI double, but couldn’t put anything else on the board afterward.
Tuesday started with Plant City’s game against Riverview, which saw the Sharks advance to the next round with a 5-2 win.
The Raiders broke the scoreless tie in the fourth inning when pitcher Dylan Robinson scored Cody Cribbs with an RBI double and, after a pitching change by Riverview, Jarod Wingo’s RBI scored Robinson to bring Plant City’s lead up to 2-0. But the next two innings were all Riverview: Dillon Besnier hit a two-run home run with Ben Migliarese on base to tie the game at 2-2 in the top of the fifth, then Jeremy Galen, Mac Jorgensen and Besnier each contributed RBI in the sixth inning with two outs already recorded. The 5-2 score held through the end of the game, as T.J. Gayner’s seventh-inning relief effort kept the Sharks from adding to the score and the Raiders couldn’t come up with base hits.
Tuesday night’s game saw the hosting Cougars take a 3-0 loss to the top-seeded Bloomingdale Bulls.
In the bottom of the first, just one half-inning after the Cougars came within inches of putting a run on the scoreboard, the Bulls’ Bryce Hazzard scored the first run of the game taking home plate on a wild pitch. Jackson Hobbs, who had reached base with a single, stole third base shortly after Hazzard’s score and scored on Jett Davis’s RBI single. Durant spent the rest of the game trying to figure out pitcher Nico Saladino, who gave up three hits and two walks in a complete game, and got Luke Cadwallader as far as third base twice but couldn’t get any runs on the board. Bloomingdale scored one last time in the bottom of the sixth, when Kyle Merkle scored Sam Longanecker with an RBI single.
Tuesday was a good night for Strawberry Crest, though.
The Chargers picked up a 5-4 win over Wiregrass Ranch, breaking a 4-4 tie in the final frame to walk off with the win at Wharton High School.
Both teams traded leads in the first three innings, with Crest coming out of the third with the 3-2 lead. Neither team struck again until the seventh inning, when Wiregrass scored two runs in the top frame to take a 4-3 lead heading into the bottom of the final inning. The Chargers were able to score two runs of their own and walk off on the right side of the 5-4 final score.
Joseph Parrillo, Derek Barone, Alex Marshall and Ben Pues drove in runs for the Chargers and Barone, Pues, Damien Torres and Jacob Heath each crossed home plate to score.
Crest will face off against Wharton in Thursday’s district championship game, which will begin at 7 p.m. The Wildcats are coming off of a 4-0 shutout win over Freedom in their own Tuesday night game, and both Wharton and Crest will also be playing for control of the season series. The two schools split wins in 2018, with Wharton winning a 2-1 ballgame on March 22 and Crest getting revenge at home with their own 5-4 win on April 12.