East Lake knew this day was coming.
As the Eagles were tearing through their regular season schedule like few East Lake teams ever have, every player and coach in the dugout was aware who would be waiting come May 14. That day is Tuesday and that team is Bradenton Lakewood Ranch.
The Mustangs are a roadblock. They’ve stood in East Lake’s way of advancing deeper into the playoffs four times in the past five years, including last year’s 7-0 wipeout in the Class 8A region semifinal.
East Lake gets its next crack at Lakewood Ranch after smashing Palmetto 15-2 last week. That win improved the Eagles to 27-1 overall. MaxPreps.com ranks them No. 8 among all state schools.
The Mustangs? They’re 27-0 and the same website ranks them No. 1 – in the United States.
Both teams enter the region semifinal scoring more than eight runs a night and surrendering fewer than two. The Eagles have all the pieces in place this year to make a run at a state championship. Can they finally change the narrative in Bradenton, though?
The winner moves on to the region final to host the winner of Plant City (20-4) and Sickles (21-7) on Friday night.
In Class 9A, Palm Harbor University has an even more familiar foe Tuesday. The Hurricanes face District 9A-8 opponent Newsome for a fourth time this season. The teams split in the regular season and Newsome got to host Tuesday by winning the league title 2-1.
PHU traveled to Vero Beach last week and won 3-0. Another win would send the ’Canes to their first region final since finishing as Class 9A state runners-up in 2017. That Friday game would either be at home against Orlando Timber Creek (17-6) or on the road at Oviedo (14-10).
Calvary Christian gets to stay home Tuesday for its Class 4A region final against fellow district opponent Tampa Catholic. Last week’s 17-1 blasting of Orlando The First Academy was the Warriors’ first postseason win in program history.
Similar to PHU-Newsome, Tuesday is the fourth meeting of the year for Calvary and Tampa Catholic. The Warriors won twice, including the district title.
A win sends Calvary to next week’s state final four to face the winner of Miami Westminster Christian (20-8) and Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna. Westminster has won back-to-back Class 4A state championships.
Baseball’s postseason schedule is a week behind softball’s and first- and second-round games get played this week.
As the East Lake girls attempt to get by their playoff rival, the boys will try to shake off some late-season adversity. The Eagles raced out to a 20-0 record to start the season but went 3-3 their last six games, including last Friday’s tough-to-swallow 6-1 District 8A-7 defeat against Seminole. That setback sends East Lake to Lakewood Ranch (23-4) on Wednesday and allows the Warhawks to stay home and host Sarasota (20-8).
Lakewood Ranch has a pair of aces in junior Florida State commit Colin Apgar and senior State College of Florida commit Matt Gelorme. Apgar started and won the Mustangs’ District 8A-8 championship game against Sarasota but both will be available to throw Wednesday.
If East Lake returns to its winning ways, it will either head to Seminole on Saturday for the region semifinal or get to host Sarasota.
In Class 6A, Dunedin earned its third straight district championship last week by run-ruling Boca Ciega 12-2. The Falcons (19-8) have reached the region finals four years in a row, including 2017’s run to the state final four. The quest for five straight region finals appearances begins Wednesday at home against Sebring (11-14).
Dunedin enters the bracket on a five-game winning streak and a sixth would send it into Saturday’s semifinals. The Falcons would host Boca Ciega (7-18) or head east to Lake Wales (20-6).
Calvary Christian’s quest to return to its third straight state championship game begins Tuesday at home against Winter Park Trinity Prep (16-6). The Warriors (22-4) remain ranked as one of the state’s best and are led by a pitching staff that surrenders fewer than three runs a night.
A region semifinal win Tuesday will send Calvary into Friday’s region final to host either Tampa Catholic (19-8) or The First Academy (19-8).