Saturday night’s alright for baseball in the Plant City area, as evidenced by a pair of wins from PCHS and Strawberry Crest in FHSAA baseball regional semifinal action.
The Plant City Raiders picked up a walk-off 3-2 win over Plant at home while Strawberry Crest got out to an early 1-0 lead over Wiregrass Ranch and held steady for the remaining six innings to lock up the win in Dover.
In Plant City, the Raiders started and ended things with district championship hero Hunter Emerine. PCHS’s senior catcher put the Raiders ahead, 1-0, with an RBI single in the second inning to start off the scoring. The Panthers put a pair of runs on the board in the top of the fourth with RBI singles from J.D. Urso and Jac Caglione and took a 2-1 lead they managed to hold on to despite the Raiders putting runners in scoring position several times in the bottom of the fourth and fifth innings. Jarod Wingo retired Plant’s side in the top of the seventh to set up a bottom half-inning that the home fans watched with bated breath.
After Mario Williams grounded out, Cade Shissler managed to reach first base on a single to right that took a favorable drop in front of Plant’s defense, then took second base on a passed ball during Chris Rodriguez’s at-bat. Rodriguez struck out swinging but Cole Cothren singled to drive in Shissler for the tying run. Parker Messick singled to move Cothren to third with Emerine up to bat. Despite the gravity of the moment, Emerine kept a cool head and knew he had the walk-off RBI almost as soon as the ball came off his bat for a single.
Meanwhile, in Dover, Crest and Wiregrass Ranch met for the fourth and final time this year and the Chargers completed the season sweep with a 1-0 win. Offense typically hadn’t been hard for the Chargers to come by during the series (Crest had outscored the Bulls, 17-6, heading into Saturday), but the visiting team put forth a solid effort in a win-or-go-home game.
After Ben Pues hit an RBI single to right field in the first inning to put Crest ahead, 1-0, the game quickly turned into a defensive battle. Alex Marshall kept Wiregrass Ranch in check through the fifth inning, when Kade Manderscheid relieved him and continued to stifle the Bulls’ offense through the end of the game.
Plant City fans will have to make a drive to Seminole to see the Raiders play on May 22, as they’ll travel for the first time in the postseason. Seminole High School pulled out a 2-1 win over East Lake on Saturday night and will host the 8A-Region 2 championship game at 7 p.m. May 22.
Crest fans won’t have to worry about travel plans that evening, as SCHS will host Chiles in the 8A-Region 1 championship at 7 p.m. Chiles and Atlantic Coast played an action-packed regional semifinal that ended with a 10-6 win for the Timberwolves of Tallahassee.