After ending the season on a five-game win streak, the Raiders cruised past East Bay in their district quarterfinal matchup.
After a tough opening stretch that resulted in a disappointing 2-5 start through seven games, Plant City would turn a corner late in the season to finish the year with a 13-11 record entering district tournament play. Winners in seven of their final nine contests — including a five game win streak that featured a strong 8-3 win over 15-5 Plant to end the Raiders’ regular season schedule — Plant City kept rolling with a definitive 15-5 victory in mercy rule fashion over East Bay in the 6A District 11 quarterfinals on Monday.
As the district’s third seed, the Indians made their way to Plant City and junior Chase Mobley took the mound in the top of the first for the Raiders — working through the frame with ease as he notched a pair of strikeouts and a ground out to end the inning quickly. In the bottom of the first, Plant City wasted no time jumping out in front. After a pair of walks from junior Colin Pellicer and Landon Robert put the Raiders first two hitters of the game aboard, senior Anthony Palestrini appeared to give the Indians a picture-perfect double play opportunity on a ground ball to shortstop, but the throw to second was dropped by East Bay’s middle infielder and all runners reached base safely — loading the bases with no outs. And in the next at bat, senior captain Adan Longoria made East Bay pay for the mistake as he sent a towering grand slam over the left field wall to give the Raiders a 4-0 lead in an instant. Two hitters later, Plant City was right back in action with a double to right center from Wyatt Fordham put a runner back in scoring position. A single through the left side of the infield from senior Deven Gonzalez put runners on the corners before Gonzalez stole second. A single to right field from senior Zane Wright drove Fordham and Gonzalez home as the Raiders took a 6-0 lead into the second.
Two consecutive walks to open the second gave East Bay a chance to battle back, but a strikeout from Mobley sandwiched between a pair of strong defensive plays from Longoria and Gonzalez got the Raiders out of the inning unscathed.
Longoria opened the bottom of the second with a line drive deep to right center, reaching second safely as East Bay’s right fielder nearly made the play on a dead sprint but couldn’t come up with the catch cleanly. A strikeout marked the first out of the inning but another RBI knock from Fordham drove Longoria home on a single to right field — giving Plant City a 7-0 lead for the moment. Gonzalez then roped a double of his own down the left field line to leave runners at second and third before Wright drove home Fordham on a sac fly to the wall in centerfield and Gonzalez scored on a passed ball. At the end of two, Plant City seemed to be making quick work of the 4-16 Indians as they built a 9-0 lead.
East Bay cut the Raiders’ lead down to 9-2 in the top of the third but Plant City got one back in the bottom half of the inning with an RBI double from Landon Robert. Three more runs in the bottom of the fourth left Plant City with a 13-2 lead — just one run short of ending the game then and there via mercy rule — but the Indians were able to escape the jam and tack on three runs of their own in the top of the fifth to make it 13-5.
A bases loaded sacrifice fly from Gonzalez in the fifth and a game-winning single from Palestrini in the sixth, driving home senior Ray Cowen from third, sealed the 15-5 victory for the Raiders, moving them to 14-11 on the year and earning them a rematch against Bloomingdale in the district semifinal the next night.
Looking for revenge after Bloomingdale claimed the lone regular season matchup between the two teams in a 4-3 final on March 23, the Raiders came up just short as they fell 6-5 to the Bulls on Tuesday.