- December 30, 2017
The road to Fort Myers for the FHSAA Baseball State Championships starts in earnest this week with the beginning of regional playoff brackets.
Four teams from the Observer Preps coverage area in western Orange County advanced out of their respective district tournaments last week, either as district champions or district runners-up.
Here is a breakdown of each team's path to the playoffs and road ahead.
How they got here: In the district semifinals, the Panthers (19-8) trailed Freedom 1-0 through five innings. In the sixth inning, Bailey Kossoff drove in Brandon Fields to tie the game. Then, in the bottom of the seventh inning, August Haymaker scored a walkoff single that drove in Raymond Negron to preserve Dr. Phillips' season with a 2-1 victory. In the district final against Boone, the Panthers were doomed early by errors and ultimately fell, 8-1.
Road ahead: The Panthers will face a familiar Metro Conference foe in the first round when they travel to Heller Bros. Ballpark in Winter Garden to face the Warriors (24-3). Dr. Phillips has been defeated by West Orange twice this season by a combined score of 24-9, meaning the Panthers will have to do a better job of corralling the Warriors' bats to score the upset.
How they got here: A three-run third inning in the district semifinals gave TFA (22-4) the distance it needed to get past Father Lopez (10-15-1) with 6-3 win and earn a playoff berth. Two days later, in the district final, the Royals broke out the bats against Trinity Prep to score a 9-2 victory and secure home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Road ahead: The Royals will host Clearwater Central Catholic (15-8) in the regional semifinals of the Class 4A State Tournament. In the Marauders, TFA will encounter a ballclub that does not score as much as it does — the Royals average 8.3 runs per game to CCC's 4.7 — but that allows fewer runs. TFA has thrived scoring runs on its second or third time through the order, averaging more than 2.5 runs in the fourth inning this season.
How they got here: After falling twice to East Ridge in the regular season and entering the district tournament as the No. 4, Ocoee (19-8) scored the biggest victory of its season when it rallied from a 1-0 deficit and scored a 3-1 win against the tournament hosts. Ethan Long pitched a complete game and Bubba Sangster hit a crucial two-run home run for the Knights. Against Forest in the district championship, though, Ocoee allowed five early runs and never recovered, losing 5-1.
Road ahead: The loss in the district championship means that the first-ever playoff game for the baseball program at the modern Ocoee High will be on the road. The Knights will likely pitch Long again against Wharton (16-8). Wharton has been strong at home, with an 8-1 record, making for a tough task for Ocoee.
How they got here: The Warriors (24-3) faced off against longtime rival Olympia in the district semis with a playoff berth on the line May 3. The game was tied 1-1 through five inning when West Orange pushed across five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, capped by a two-run double by Adrian Delgado. Two days later in the district final, the Warriors took on tournament host Lake Brantley in a classic. Doug Nikhazy pitched six strong innings and Chris Seise scored both runs for West Orange in a 2-1 victory.
Road ahead: The Warriors have defeated Dr. Phillips twice already this season by a combined score of 24-9, but beating any team a third time is a tough task. With the playoffs structured in a one game per week format, expect senior ace Cole Beavin to get the start with junior standout Nikhazy ready to come in if needed.
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected]