TAVARES – Each game represents a new objective.
That’s been the approach of the Eustis High School baseball team since the start of the season, when they were struggling with a 1-8 record.
And look at the Panthers now.
The Panthers took a 5-1 first-innings lead and earned a 10-3 win Thursday over South Sumter in the Class 4A-District 10 Championship game at Fred Stover Sports Complex. It’s the Panthers’ first district title in seven years.
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With the victory, Eustis moved to 15-12 this season and will host a Class 4A-Region 2 quarterfinal game on Wednesday at David Lee Diamond-Stuart Cottrell Field. South Sumter closed its season with a 7-17 record.
“I don’t think our guys have really been down at any time this season,” Eustis coach Matt Burgess said. “They got frustrated with themselves because some of those games in that 1-8 stretch were games we could have won. We kept telling them, “guys, it’s going to turn out,” and that’s it.
“We stayed there and kept fighting all season, and had a chance to win a district title and we did it.”
Eustis spotted a Raiders point in the first inning. Dalton Sellars, who reached a defenseman’s pick, scored on a left-hand single from Caleb Breeden.
Next, the Panthers landed South Sumter starting pitcher Mickey Oliver. Paxxton Hack, JR Radcliffe and TJ Glover greeted Oliver with a pair of singles and a walk and all three eventually scored.
Cut Gatch and Ryan Crow also scored in the inning. A goal-laden walk to Hack – one of two Panthers who struck twice in the first quarter – ended the night for Oliver, who was relieved by AJ Freeman after just 2/3 innings.
That was more than enough for Eustis starting pitcher Brock Cartin, as well as relievers JR Radcliffe and Gatch. Cartin went four innings, scattering five hits and allowing one run, while Radcliffe and Gatch pitched the final three innings and allowed two hits and two unearned runs.
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Eustis added five more points over his last five collective shots – three in the fourth and two more in the sixth. Glover scored three points, while Hack and Gatch scored two points each.
The Panthers finished with 11 hits. Hack, Glover and Ledger Pleasant had two each and every batter in the lineup reached base at least once.
For the Raiders, Sellars scored two runs, while Malakhi Boone had two hits and scored twice. Breeden also had two hits.
Cartin took the win, his second of the season, and Oliver was marked by the loss.
Eustis’ first-round opponent will be revealed over the weekend when the FHSAA determines the four general bids for the reach region, based on computer rankings. The playoff rosters for baseball and softball will also be announced over the weekend.
In other District Championship games involving teams from Lake and Sumter Counties, East Ridge captured the Class 6A-District 9 Championship with a 5–1 win over Orlando East River; In Class 5A-District 11, Lake Minneola stopped Wesley Chapel Cypress Creek, 7-2; In Class 3A-District 4, Ocala Trinity Catholic edged The Villages 2-1 in eight innings; In Class 2A-District 5, Mount Dora Christian Academy defeated Brooksville Hernando Christian 20-0; and, in Class 1A-District 8, Fort Meade beat Wildwood 25-1.
In softball, East Ridge defeated Kissimmee Osceola 4–1 for the Class 6A-District 9 championship; in Class 5A-District 6, South Lake stopped Auburndale 9-6; in Class 4A-District 7, Eustis defeated Orlando Bishop Moore 4-2; in Class 3A-District 5, Umatilla eliminated The Villages 9-8; in Class 3A-District 7, Montverde Academy beat Windermere Prep 2-1 in 13 innings; and, in Class 2A-District 6, Mount Dora Christian defeated Ocala Trinity Catholic 6-4.