TAMPA - King coach Jim Macaluso can't explain how his team keeps doing it, and he's not all that inclined to sit for too long and figure it out.
All he knows is, somehow his Lions figure out a way to win even though every sign points to what should be a loss.
King pulled out another nailbiter Thursday night in the Class 5A, District 8 final, beating Leto 3-2 despite being outhit for the second consecutive game. The come-from-behind win gave King a school-record third consecutive district championship and allows it to play host to Tuesday's region quarterfinal against Plant City, the runner-up in Class 5A, District 7.
"Sooner or later you have to start believing in all of those "You gotta believe' and "When it's meant to be' kind of things," Macaluso said. "It was a little different script, but this is a special group. They just seem to get it done."
For 51/3 innings the only thing the Lions were getting done was perfecting the walk from the dugout to home plate back to the dugout, as Leto starter Joey Bailey plowed through their lineup.
Bailey (0-2) allowed one hit and struck out eight before walking his third and fourth batters and being relieved by Tommy Dominguez with a 2-1 lead. Dominguez then gave up back-to-back singles, including Chris Schweitzer's two-run bouncer over third base that provided the winning margin.
At that point the Lion defense kicked in and helped starter Marcus Causey raise his record to 8-2. Causey pitched the complete game, allowing two runs on five hits and striking out eight.
But his night wasn't over until Ralph Quintana made a diving stop at first base for the first out, Zach Grace made a bare-handed pickup of a slow roller at third for out No. 2 and Zack Livingston reeled in a hard line drive to seal the win.
Leto, which already had beaten the No. 2 and 3 seeds in the tournament, enters Tuesday's regional quarterfinal at Lakeland, the Class 5A, District 7 winner, with an 8-16 record having lost its 11th one-run game of the season.
Jesuit pitcher dominates
TAMPA - Behind pitxhe Kevin Orihuela, Jesuit captured its second Class 3A, District 9 championship by defeating Osceola 3-1 at Robinson High.
Orihuela allowed two hits while striking out 10 and walking one.
"I felt very comfortable," the Tigers senior said. "Everything seemed to be working for us, and our defense played very well."
The Warriors scored first when second baseman Victopher Pagan doubled to deep left-center in the third and came around to score on an infield error by Jesuit. From that point, Orihuela allowed one hit, a fifth-inning single by Michael Thompson. The Tigers right-hander finished by striking out the side in the seventh.
"Kevin gave us a heck of a game tonight," Jesuit coach John Crumbley said. "He's been nursing a bad back, but he was just super."
Osceola starter Kyle McDowell pitched effectively through three innings, but two line-drive singles by Ryan Lockwood and Kelby Taylor caused Warriors coach Steve Smith to bring in Ryan Koch.
Designated hitter Billy Lathem greeted Koch with a single to center that sent Lockwood home with the tying run. A passed ball and a run-scoring single by Ryan Wiser made it 3-1.
- JIM REESE
Lancers lose late
LARGO - Matt Sitton's bases-loaded single in the bottom of the eighth lifted Indian Rocks Christian to a 3-2 win over Cambridge in the Class A, District 10 final.
Sitton's clutch hit off Lancer starter Justin Craig sealed the Golden Eagles' third district title in seven years.
"I think we've played above the level of our talent," Indian Rocks coach D.J. Springman said. "If they just continue to believe in the little things, we'll be successful."
The Eagles lost two games to Cambridge this season, and the first meeting was an 11-3 rout.
IRC starter Frankie Gross (6-4) lasted eight innings after allowing the first run of the game to the Lancers in the second. But the Eagles responded quickly and tied the score when Gross scored on a Joe Rasor hit in the bottom of the inning. Cambridge scored their other run in the fourth.
Gross helped his cause with a leadoff double in the sixth and scored one batter later on an error. Gross then kept the Lancers (2-21 after forfeiting 18 wins for using an ineligible player) scoreless until the eighth, when Sitton drove in the winner.
"I knew this game would come down to small ball," Springman said. "We just did the little things today."
- ERIC MUSKATEVC
Plant City loses final
HAINES CITY - Lakeland batted around in the fourth to score six runs on its way to beating Plant City 9-3, winning its third consecutive Class 5A, District 7 championship.
Plant City (11-16-1) will travel to King for Tuesday's region opener. Lakeland (15-9) will play host to Leto.
Lakeland scored on one hit, five walks and two errors. Mark Cruz pitched a complete game for the win, giving up four hits and a walk and striking out four.
- THE LEDGER
Bucs lose final
FROSTPROOF - Randy Montomgery, who also earned the win in Tuesday's semifinal against Fort Meade, pitched a three-hitter to lead McKeel over Berkeley Prep in the Class 2A, District 11 final.
The senior struck out nine in seven innings and gave up two walks. The Wildcats (20-7) allowed one runner past second base.
Berkeley Prep (17-13) visits defending state champion Clearwater Central Catholic on Tuesday.
Junior second baseman Ronnie Hedrick had two hits, two runs and an RBI for the Wildcats. Sophomore shortstop John Raebig added two RBIs, and lead-off hitter Carson Hinman scored twice.
- THE LEDGER
Armwood faces Plant
SEFFNER - Kevin Clark's three-run homer highlighted a five-run third for Armwood, and that was all the Hawks needed to beat Brandon 5-1 in a Class 4A, District 9 semifinal.
"We were hoping (five would be enough)," Armwood coach Joey Fernandez said. "(Brandon) battles. They never quit. You see it in their eyes. Even down by five runs, you didn't see any of them hang their heads."
The Eagles' nightmare inning started when Jerry Gonzalez laid down a perfect bunt toward third for the Hawks' first hit. Charlie Raley then got hit by a bouncing pitch, and Brandon McArthur and Kirk Callahan followed with back-to-back singles to put Armwood (17-6) up 2-0. Clark had a three-run blast to right center, his fourth of the season, to open a 5-0 lead.
McArthur held Brandon (17-10) to one run in four innings, but when the Eagles opened the fifth with back-to-back singles, Fernandez turned to sophomore Derek Bolock.
With runners on second and third and nobody out, Bolock walked one but denied any chance of an Eagle comeback by striking out two. Bolock again was key in the sixth after an error and a walk put two runners on. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third, but Bolock fielded Chris Cates' comebacker and fired to third to catch Ryan See scrambling back to the base.
Bolock struck out five in three innings of no-hit ball for his third save.
Brandon's Blake Tillett responded to the five-run third by striking out five in the next two innings and nine in five innings.
In the first semifinal, David Gandy had a rough first inning, but it was nothing compared to Jefferson's pitching struggles.
Gandy surrendered four runs in the first, and Plant capitalized on seven walks and three Dragon errors, all in the fourth, to win 12-4.
The win sends the Panthers to today's district championship against host Armwood at 7 p.m. Plant beat Armwood twice in the regular season.
Plant scored three in the bottom of the first to cut it to 4-3. Cory Brown put Plant ahead with a three-run homer as part of a five-run second for the Panthers, and four in the fourth closed it out.
Gandy shook off the first inning to retire the Dragons in order the rest of the way, except for an error in the second.