By STEVE JACKSON
All five South Shore high school baseball teams opened play in district playoffs Monday, May 1, and/or Tuesday, May 2. The regular season ended last week. Whether a squad is 16-8 like Lennard High or 4-16 as East Bay High, the district provides the chance to keep playing as long as you are winning. Each of the three districts involving a South Shore diamond squad has a championship game scheduled for Thursday, May 4, at 7 p.m. at the highest seed’s diamond. A win in the district championship guarantees a berth in the beginning of the FHSAA (Florida High School Athletic Association) baseball regional playoffs, which start next week on May 10. A team could possibly receive an invite to the regionals even with a loss in its district playoffs.
Lennard finished the regular season last week with two wins to complete a 16-8 mark. Coach Victor Martinez’ Longhorns are seeded number 1 in the 6A-District 11 playoffs, which opened May 1. Both Lennard and the number 2 seed, Bloomingdale, received first round byes. Lennard was set to play at home Tuesday, May 2, versus the winner of the Palmetto-Manatee contest the day previous. A Lennard win early this week would mean a District 11 championship game this Thursday, May 4, in Ruskin at 7 p.m. versus Bloomingdale or the winner from that bracket. Lennard lost 8-2 to Bloomingdale in March.
East Bay High is the other South Shore team in the District 11 playoff. The 4-16 Indians competed May 1 at 13-11 Plant City with the winner tangling the next day versus 15-8 Bloomingdale for a shot Friday for the district champ crown.
The good news for Spoto High, another South Shore team, is that Coach Stephon Knight took his 10-13 squad into the “second season” as a favorite May 1 over 5-19 Freedom High at Spoto in District 9. The bad news is that the winner then confronted 21-4 Jesuit High, a perennial baseball power in Florida, the very next day, May 2, in Tampa to determine who will play in this Friday’s 5A District 9 championship.
The South Shore featured two teams opening this week in 7A District 7. Both 11-12 Sumner High and 8-14 Riverview had tough opponents May 1. Coach Kennedy Duran’s Stingrays already lost to Steinbrenner High in April and had to try them again. Coach Jason Smith had his 8-14 Riverview Sharks, also in District 7, matched up with Palm Harbor High, whose regular season 13-10 mark included an 11-1 whipping of the Sharks last month.
Last week the five South Shore teams completed a 5-3 combined record, with Lennard going 2-0, Riverview 1-0, Spoto and Sumner both 1-1, and East Bay 0-1.
Lennard took care of Freedom early in the week 4-1. Key freshman relief pitcher Talan Miranda handled most of the Horn’s mound duties. Miranda was aided by junior Jose Rivera and senior Carter Payne. Offensively, frosh Mikie Locke and senior Tim Mendizabal each stroked a hit and an RBI while senior Logan Covey picked up two RBIs and one hit. Junior Matthew Counts and senior Joseph Rivera also collected a hit each. A four-run sixth inning spelled a 7-4 season-ending victory over Wharton last Saturday for the Horns. Soph RJ Torres sparked the bats with 1/3 and three RBIs. Holding Wharton from the mound for Lennard were its two senior aces, Jackson Mueller and Carter Payne. Lennard has been led in batting average for the season by Counts at .307, Covey .304 and Joseph Rivera at .299. Senior Alex Brazer has exhibited power with four home runs. Pitching-wise for the Horns in the regular season, Payne was 6-1 with a 2.30 ERA. Mueller’s season stats were 5-2 and a 2.37 ERA while junior Zack Bird was 2-3 with a 1.96 ERA.
Despite outstanding performances at the plate by its two juniors, Peyton Nisy and Abel Jiminez, Spoto pitchers could not hold the Leto Falcons. In the early-week game, Leto overwhelmed the Spartans 15-8. Nisy went 4/5, a run and three RBIs. Jiminez had a 3/3 evening with a run and two RBIs. Senior Joshua Fernandez and soph Mike McQueen also had two hits and an RBI. Spoto travelled to Tampa to close out the regular season versus Tampa Bay Tech. Thanks to one good inning, it proved to be a good visit! Three Spoto seniors led the way at the plate. Chase Wink, Fernandez and Tyler Rucker had RBIs as the Spartans rallied for their seven runs in the 5th. Cullen Cairns, Jiminez and McQueen also contributed to the winning outburst. Nisy threw six innings, allowing only a hit with six strikeouts and no walks. The versatile Wink worked an inning from the mound.
Riverview closed its regular season on a two-game winning streak. The Sharks finished 8-14 by routing 5-18 King High 12-2 behind the two-hit complete-game pitching of junior Michael Sims-Gallagher. Freshmen Gabe Boltz and Justin Edwards, sophs Sebastian Rojas and Anthony Shellman, juniors Anthony Jacquez and Elijah Tishman, and seniors Victor Peinado and Adrian Rolan were the offensive stalwarts for the Sharks.
East Bay High dropped its final game of the regular season 7-4 to 10-12 Robinson High last week. Offensively the Indians were sparked by junior Robert Hayes’ bat with 2/3, a run, and an RBI. Soph Rory Beauford and junior Shawn Dowe collected a hit and an RBI each. Senior Taurean Norman knocked a hit and scored a run. Topping the batting average list for EB’s season were Dowe at .400, senior Kyler Browning at .314, Beauford at .302, Norman at .294, senior Ty Andrews at .283 and frosh Jeffrey Diab at .280.
Sumner High was shutout 7-0 by the Armwood Hawks early last week. The Stingrays ended their 11-12 regular season with a 17-2 bombing of hapless 1-21 Middleton High. (See more coverage every week of Sumner High sports in the ObserverNews print and in the ObserverNews.net digital by Francis Fedor.)