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Both the Sebring and Lake Placid baseball teams ran into some tough competition during the season and it’s about to get tougher, as both squads gear up for regional quarterfinal games on Wednesday. As district champions, Lake Placid gets a home game against Tampa Catholic, while Sebring gets to make the journey to New Port Richey to face Mitchell.
The Blue Streaks hope to have better luck than their softball counterparts who endured the six-hour round-trip last week to face River Ridge and came up on the short end of a 16-3 decision.
“Hopefully we’ll go out there and compete,” said Sebring second baseman Cullen Lovett.
The Blue Streaks showed what they’re capable of during the district tournament—both the good and the bad—playing a solid all-around game against Kathleen to advance to the district finals—and then throwing in a bit of a stinker against a very good Winter Haven squad in the district finals.
“it will be a challenge, no doubt,” said Sebring coach Buck Rapp. “But we’re still playing, anything can happen.”
Rapp said last week the team would send Garrett DeRoss to the mound. He’s coming off a strong four-hit shutout against Kathleen and will have to be at his best against a Mitchell squad that averaged eight runs per game.
The Mustangs have some big-time players, including Florida State commit Cobi Johnson, who hit .418 and knocked in 30 runs during the season, although the junior is best-known for his pitching. He was 8-2 on the year with a 1.90 ERA and fanned 89 batters in 59 innings, while limiting the opposition to a .201 batting average.
Mitchell has another solid starter in Chris McCormick, who was 6-1 with a 2.26 ERA and struck out 66 batters in 55 2/3 innings.
Eddie Goscicki hit .400 and knocked in 26 runs, while the Mustangs’ best all-around offensive player, Marcus Begg, has had several solid scholarship offers even though he has already announced his commitment to do a two-year church mission after graduation. Begg hit .451 with seven home runs and 34 RBI.
The Blue Streaks will have to take advantage of any scoring opportunities and play solid defense.
“Hopefully we can play well and scratch out a win,” Rapp said.
The Green Dragons will host the always-tough Crusaders, who were 15-11-1 on the season, although Tampa Catholic plays a number of fellow private schools and larger schools for non-district games.
Offensively, the Crusaders are led by Dre Leal, who hit .389 on the season, Jorge Romero, who batted .338 with a team-high 13 RBI, along with Paulie Russo (.307) and Cobie Gerbis (.306).
Clayton Smith is the ace of the Tampa Catholic pitching staff, going 6-2 with a sparkling 1.56 ERA. He isn’t overpowering, striking out 37 in 49 1/3 innings, but walked just nine batters and allowed 34 hits.
The Crusaders have a solid No. 2 starter in AJ Gonzalez, who was 3-3 with a 2.30 ERA. The ERA is slightly inflated due to one poor start against Class 5A Jesuit, which is ranked No. 12 in the country by MaxPreps.
The Green Dragons hit .300 as a team on the season and have five starters (Nathan Stanley, Morgan Lott, Ricky Miller, Tyler Carr and Laine Daum) who hit .300 or better for the year.
When the Green Dragons get on base, they definitely like to run and were quite successful, going 65 of 69 in the stolen base department for the season.
The winners of both games will be off until next Tuesday, so teams will be able to use as many pitchers as are needed, knowing they will have five days to rest before their next possible appearance.
Both games begin at 7 p.m.