|Plant senior Brock Fagler had an RBI and a strong start as the Panthers defeated Bloomingdale in extra-innings of the Class 8A Region Quarterfinals. (813Preps file photo)|
VALRICO – The Plant Panthers battled the Bloomingdale Bulls in the Class 8A Regional Quarterfinal, pulling away in the top of the ninth and holding on for a 3-1 win. The teams – former district foes – played in the same round last year when Plant won 1-0, on a walk-off error. It was another pitcher’s duel Tuesday as the teams were locked 1-1 for most of the game.
Brock Fagler drove in the first run of the game for Plant, hitting a single with the bases loaded with two outs. Mike Haydak scored, and Chase Sanguinetti was thrown out at the plate by Bull’s centerfielder Bryce Hazzard for the final out of the inning.
Fagler was virtually unhittable on the mound as well, pounding strikes. He pitched 7 2/3 innings, striking out 11, while giving up just one run on a two-out double by Brock Wilken in the fourth inning.
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“I just wanted to go out there and pound the zone with strikes,” said Fagler. “It worked out well.”
“Brock has been our guy all year,” said Plant head coach Dennis Braun. “We are going to keep running him out there. We know that we have a chance to win every time he’s on the mound.”
The teams were tied 1-1 going into extra innings. The Panthers finally broke through in the ninth inning, scoring two. They would take the lead on the squeeze-play, as Matthew Coker would bunt in Gabe Rincones from third, who lead the inning off with a bloop single to left. They would add another run when Haydak was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
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Leo Oshinski would come in the bottom of the eighth with two outs in relief of Fagler with runners on first and second. He got Jackson Hobbs to ground out to the shortstop. He would later go out and finish off the win in the bottom of the ninth with a 3-1 lead, getting Kyle Merkle to swing and miss with runners on first and second for the final out of the game.
“Fortunately we were able to execute at the end and get a couple of runs,” said Braun.
The Panthers advance to the 8A Regional Semifinal to face district rival Sickles next Tuesday. The teams squared off in last week’s 8A-District 5 championship. The Gryphons were victorious, winning 5-0 and claiming their first district championship in school history.
The Gryphons won two out of three meetings this year against the Panthers.
“Eskew shut us out twice, so we are going to have to figure him out,” said Braun. “I like our chances, if we can execute we can get it done.”