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TRINITY - Jono Cornelius had been in similar situations, so he knew he could throw strikes when he needed to.
Protecting a three-run lead with runners at second and third and one out in the fifth inning of Tuesday's district semifinal, the Land O'Lakes left-hander went to 3-0 on Mitchell's Zack Weber. Cornelius battled back to strike out Weber, then retired C.J. Hanson on four pitches to escape the jam. Though he lacked the usual snap on his fastball, Cornelius threw two-hit ball over 61/3 innings to lead Land O'Lakes to a 3-0 victory.
"He battled his butt off," Gators coach Calvin Baisley said. "I don't think he had his best stuff out there, but he battled."
Land O'Lakes (16-9) will play Clermont East Ridge (19-7), an 11-1 winner over River Ridge, on Thursday. The Golden Knights swept the Gators this season.
Land O'Lakes scored three runs in the first two innings, then turned the game over to Cornelius, who struck out seven and walked six in his second-best outing of the season, behind a no-hitter against Wesley Chapel.
"The only thing that's improved over the season is my off-speed pitches," Cornelius said. "My speed and my control has gotten a little worse, but I feel I can throw my changeup and my curveball for a strike pretty much any time right now."
Danny Sutton scored on a wild pitch after Land O'Lakes loaded the bases with one out in the first. The Gators scored twice in the second thanks to back-to-back doubles by Cameron Harris and Sutton and Jon Brewster's run-scoring single.
Mitchell starter Derek Shaw settled down after the first two innings, holding Land O'Lakes to one hit over the final four.
The Mustangs (11-13) had runners at first and second with one out in the seventh, but second baseman Eli Jones snagged Hanson's liner and flipped to Sutton at second for a game-ending double play.
"We've got to hit," Mitchell coach Phil Bell said. "(Shaw) pitched well enough to win. We just didn't get it done."
Adam Crowe's two-run homer highlighted East Ridge's victory over River Ridge (3-21), which ended according to the 10-run rule when the Golden Knights scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth.