Like their softball-playing sisters, the county’s baseball teams will play to secure regional playoff brackets in next weekend’s district tournaments.
Aside from Osceola, who has already secured a regional playoff berth thanks to playing in a three-team district, the other eight teams involved all head out of Osceola County to play.
Celebration, Liberty and St. Cloud go to Windermere for the District 8A-10 semifinals and finals; Harmony is off to Viera in 7A-6; Poinciana drives down to Auburndale in 6A-10; and City of Life goes north to Geneva in 2A-4.
Since Gateway and George Jenkins didn’t field teams this year, District 9A-5 was made up only of Osceola, Ridge and Haines City, and the Kowboys (15-5) went 3-1 in games against them and has earned a spot in the district championship game, which they host Thursday at 7 p.m.
The Kowboys completed an undefeated season of county play Tuesday with a 3-0 win over old rival St. Cloud. Frankie Santaniello had an RBI single and George Rivera launched a home run in the win. They were scheduled to end the regular season Friday night against Cypress Creek having won eight of their previous nine games.
Coach Scott Birchler said he feels the team’s in a good place as it sets off on the “win or pack it up” part of the year.
“We’ve just worked hard all year, played Kowboy ball and probably overachieved a little bit when I think about my expectations at the start of the year,” he said. “The returning guys in the lineup have carried the load.”
The 8A-10 tournament will begin Monday with quarterfinals. No. 5 seeded Liberty will travel to East River, and No. 3 St. Cloud will host No. 6 Tohopekaliga at 6 p.m.
The Bulldogs (8-9) have had an up-and-down year, Coach Bo O’Dell said.
“Bi-polar might be the nicest way to put it. We either swing it or we don’t, period,” he said. “(Tuesday) was the first game we have been shut out this season, but we need to make adjustments at the plate and stop trying to do too much and just make good contact with runners on and good things will happen. It is a tough mentality to have for a high school player, but that is what separates the average player from the good ones.”
Leadoff hitter Chase Goerner has been right around the .400 mark all season, and has swiped 15 bases.
Tohopekaliga rolls into the tournament with the momentum of a 7-2 win Wednesday at Apopka.
Monday’s winner will get Celebration (9-9), the No. 2 seed who has rallied from a 1-4 start to the year, on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. at Windermere. The host Wolverines, the No. 1 seed, will play the East River-Liberty winner on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., and the championship game is Friday at 4:30 p.m.
Harmony, 11-10 going into a regular-season finale Thursday against Poinciana, has also had a back-and-forth season. The Longhorns were 4-4 in district play against their Brevard County foes, and are the No. 3 seed in the 7A- 6 tournament. They will play No. 2 Melbourne on Tuesday at Viera at 4 p.m. The championship game is Thursday at 7 p.m., also at Viera.