1. Jesuit (23-2)

On a team STACKED with seniors, Wes Mendes (pictured here) is one of two sophomores in the the Tigers top 5 in hitting. Mendes is hitting .368, with 18 RBI and 16 runs.

Banner-to-banner, the Tigers have owned our rankings this season. Yes, Jesuit dropped a tough 4-2 game to National Top 5 program IMG last week, but save for a pair of one-run battles with Wharton and Hillsborough (though the pairs’ first meeting was far-less dramatic), the Tigers have left all 813 foes in their wake. Seeded No. 1 and hosting this week’s 5A-7 tournament, all nine offensive starters are above .300 and each have either double-digit run or RBI totals (if not both). And I hear they have a pitcher or 12 to lean on. [Last week: No. 1; Preseason: No. 1]

2. Wharton (19-4)

Wharton senior pitcher Jackson Perkins.

The Wildcats have gone 9-1 in its last 10, including winning the regular-season wrap-up with former district foe Strawberry Crest, 5-4 (click here to read our coverage of this game). Wharton’s offense is led by seniors Dylan McDonald (.418, 31 runs, 22 RBI) and Zach Ehrhard (.438, 26 runs, 20 RBI), and has five more players in double-digits in BOTH runs and RBI, all supporting a pitchers Ryan Fry (5-1, 1.69 ERA), Evan Chrest (7-1, 1.72 ERA), and Jackson Perkins (5-0, 0.89 ERA). The Wildcats sit atop 7A-7’s tournament, and the numbers are great, but this will be a ferocious fight for the district crown. [LW: No. 3; Preseason: No. 3]

3. Durant (18-4)

Wharton senior Dean Hotz.

Also 9-1 in its previous 10 games, Durant is currently on a five-game run, and got an exciting walk-off win – again, courtesy of Austin Sewell (click here to read about it) – against East Bay last week. The Cougars faired pretty well in district play this season, but are No. 2 in the tourney thanks to the “mysterious” FHSAA rankings (Scooby-Doo ghost voice: oo-woo-ooo-ooo). Durant senior ace Sean Hermann has been outstanding this season, currently leading the state with 101 strikeouts, while posting a 6-0 record, with a 0.27 ERA and just nine walks in 51-plus innings. The aforementioned Sewell is hitting .403, while Dean Hotz and Dylan LaPointe have been key run producers for Durant this season. [LW: No. 4; Preseason: No. 5]

4. Berkeley Prep (20-4)

Junior 2B Anthony Castillo (.323 averages) has scored 30 runs this season for the Bucs.

The Buccaneers went up some classifications last week taking down Steinbrenner and Hillsborough in its annual playoff tune-up challenge it’s hosted the last few seasons. Berkeley Prep split with Calvary Christian in the regular season, but enters as the No. 2-seed in this week’s 3A-8 tourney. However, the Bucs do have the home-field advantage hosting this week’s events. Senior Johnathan Bruno (.426, 18 RBI, 14 runs), sophomore Cade Kurland (.389, 26 runs, 28 RBI), and the versatile Andrew DiMisa (.384, 28 runs, five saves) spear-head a stacked offense, while Will Parkinson (6-1, 1.01 ERA) and Matt Mulfinger (6-0, 2.78 ERA) lead a strong staff into the postseason. [LW: No. 3; Preseason: No. 2]

5. Bloomingdale (17-6)

Bloomingdale senior Wyatt Strickland.

We hate to ding the Bulls (dropping three spots) for one, extra-inning loss to Alonso last week, but when the teams hot on your heels win out, them’s the breaks. Not to worry though, as Bloomingdale had ripped off eight-straight prior to it Thursday loss, and head into the 6A-10 tourney as the top seed. Our best guess is the three Pinellas teams that voted preseason to host districts on that side of bay are gonna get the horns as the Bulls are the clear favorites here with a semifinal game slated against two teams that hover around .500. Bloomingdale junior leadoff hitter Drake Harman (.397, 21 runs) and junior 3-hole Colby Shelton (.417, 19 RBI, five HR) set the lineup off, but our staff has also loved what we’ve seen at the plate from seniors Marlon Bowen and Wyatt Strickland. And on the mound, junior Jack Owens (6-2, 0.77 ERA) and David Eckaus (6-2, 1.56 ERA) have been a No. 1, No. 1A combo of note all season. [LW: No. 2; Preseason: T-No. 6]

6. Strawberry Crest (15-9)

Chargers senior Colby Fanning leads the county with 38 hits.

Crest rallied, but ultimately came up short against No. 2 Wharton in its only game last week, but it’s the post-season and if the previous two playoffs are any indication, business is about to pick up for the Chargers. Looking to make a third-straight trip to Fort Myers, the Chargers are the top seed in Class 6A-8. We’ll take your texts or messages if you can find a more dirt-rat, run-through-a-brick-wall gamer than Crest senior leadoff Colby Fanning (.438, 29 runs, 13 stolen bases and a 5-1 record on the mound). Couple that with a breakout season from sophomore Arjun Nimmala (.426, 28 RBI, 23 runs, 11 doubles), a solid defense and deep pitching staff, and the Chargers are looking strong. However, they will need to contend with whichever team comes out of Tuesday’s quarterfinal between Leto (looking to also make it’s third straight trip to Hammond Stadium) and Plant City (winners of four-straight). [LW: No. 7; Preseason: No. 9]

7. Plant City (15-8)

Raiders senior Kelein Johnson.

Speaking of Plant City, two solid, non-district wins over Newsome and Robinson push the Raiders up a pair of spots this week. We had the young Raiders as a bubble team this preseason, and honestly didn’t know what to expect from a very young pitching staff. What we’ve seen is four underclassmen step up BIG TIME on the mound for the Raiders. Sophomore Adan Longoria (4-2, 2.14 ERA) responded to his toughest start of the season against Crest two weeks back, by yielding just three hits and shutting out Newsome last week. Equally impressive has been 4-2 seasons from both sophomore Preston Rogers and freshman Chase Mobley, while seniors Kelein Johnson (.397, 15 runs, 14 RBI) and Ryan Robinson (.288, 18 RBI, 18runs), and junior Colin Shultz (.370, 15 RBI, four homers) have produced at the plate. [LW: No. 9; Preseason: No. 14]

8. Seffner Christian (15-4-1)

Seffner Christian senior Dylan Cheeley.

After 10 days off for COVID-19 contact tracing, the Crusaders got back to the field and back in the win column topping IMG Silver 4-2. With the first 15-win season since 2011 (though to be fair the Crusaders were 7-1 in 2020), this year has been a big success for a deep senior class. BUT that is not nearly enough for this group with state-aspirations. The top seed in the 2A-8 tourney, the Crusaders will have to contend with the winner between Foundation Christian and Lakeland Victory Christian in the semifinals. Senior Benny Cheek will certainly be ready, bringing a 5-0 record and 0.29 ERA along with him. Seniors Dylan Cheeley and Spencer Boynton are each hitting .400 or better through 20 games. [LW: No. 8; Preseason: No. 12]

9. Gaither (12-10)

Gaither senior AJ Graham.

The Cowboys had an eight-day layoff between games thanks to Chamberlain’s season ending early due to COVID, but won an eight-inning tilt with Freedom. Gaither is the 3-seed in 6A-9 and travels to take on East Lake on Tuesday. The Cowboys have won six-in-a-row and split it the regular-season series with the Eagles. A strong lineup featuring AJ Graham (.377, 16 runs, 13 RBI), CJ Hanson (.323, 23 runs), and Frank Perez (.348, 16 runs, 16 RBI) leads the way, while Colin Jackson (6-0, 0.66 ERA) and Austin Grause (2-2, 2.35 ERA, 64 K’s) will be a tough duo to contend with on the mound. [LW: No. 10; Preseason: No. 8]

10. Sickles (14-8)

Sickles hopes to have senior Kohl Robertson back from a hamstring strain for post-season play. Robertson is hitting .482 in 21 games this season.

The Gryphons ended the regular season with a decisive 7-0 win against Leto as Hayden Yost turned in a 3-for-4, four RBI night with a homer (click here to read the coverage of this one). The Gryphons are another senior-heavy squad looking to make a deep run, but will have to do so through the meat-grinder of 7A-7, including a semifinal game against the winner of Steinbrenner-Palm Harbor for the No. 2-seed Sickles. Adrian Gutierrez (.387, 14 runs, 11 RBI) and Chase Conville (.302, 12 RBI) have done a steady job producing for the offense, but the Gryphons will need Kohl Robertson (.482, 21 runs, 11 RBI) back to really round out this lineup, though a balky hammy likely means Robertson will be limited to DH taking a good defensive glove and great range from the OF defense. On the hill, senior Holden Wade has done a very good job from the No. 1 spot going 6-3, while posting a 1.95 ERA and striking out 68 batters. [LW: No. 11; Preseason: T-No. 6]

On the bubble
11. Foundation Christian (15-4) [LW: No. 12; Preseason: NR]
12. Alonso (13-9) [LW: No. 14; Preseason: NR]
13. Plant (12-12) [LW: NR; Preseason: No. 4]
14. East Bay (15-8) [LW: No. 6; Preseason: NR]
15.Bell Creek (11-6) [LW: No. 13; Preseason: NR]

Falling out this week: Leto (14-9) [LW: No. 15; Preseason: No. 15]