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Lake Mary, Montverde, TFA lead area baseball teams into FHSAA playoffs

One year after barely missing out on the Florida High School Athletic Association baseball playoffs, Winter Springs returns after winning its second district championship in three years.

The Bears (16-9-1) held off visiting Hagerty (19-7) during a 3-2 win in eight innings Thursday night on big at-bats by junior Marco Gonzalez and senior Matthew George.

Gonzalez drove in two runs, including one on a single to tie the score with two outs in the top of the seventh inning. George, who missed the past two seasons with knee injuries, turned in the game-winning hit on an RBI-single in the eighth.

Florida Atlantic signee Mark Loubier struck out eight batters and allowed three hits in six innings while senior catcher Jacob McKenzie, a Florida International signee, threw out a pair of runners at second and third base.

“We came into the season knowing we had to do more than we did last spring,” Winter Springs coach Mike Bradley said. “The boys knew what was on the line and they were more relaxed and ready to go [Thursday] than I’ve ever seen them. It was great to be a part of.”

Winter Springs finished ninth in its region last season. Only four district champions and four at-large teams based on FHSAA power ratings advance to region tournaments.

Winning the district allowed the Bears to jump Hagerty and Orange Park Oakleaf (19-6) for the final playoff spot in Class 6A Region 1. The Huskies, a 7A state semifinalist in 2022, finished ninth in the region.

Winter Springs plays at No. 1 seed Pace (24-2) in a regional quarterfinal on Wednesday.

“It’s not going to get any easier, but Seminole County baseball is extremely good, so that prepares us,” Bradley said. “We’re not going to see anything in the playoffs that we haven’t already seen in the regular season.”

District champs are awarded a home playoff game in the quarterfinal round unless paired with a higher-ranked district winner. Pace won 7-6 vs. Cantonment Tate (18-7) for the District 1 crown.

Lake Brantley (18-8), a district champ for the fifth consecutive year, will host No. 2 seed Timber Creek (20-6) in a 7A Region 1 quarterfinal after edging Apopka (16-10) for a 3-2 win.

Junior pitcher Isaac Padilla struck out four batters in six innings before connecting on a walk-off single in the seventh on his 17th birthday.

The Wolves lost 6-4 in the District 3 final at No. 4 seed Winter Park (20-6).

Lake Mary (22-1), the No. 1 seed in the region, enters the tournament winners of 22 in a row since a 3-2 season-opening loss at Timber Creek. The Rams rank No. 10 among all classifications in FHSAA power ratings.

Region finalist Windermere High (23-3-1) hosts Lake Nona (19-7) as the No. 2 seed in 7A Region 2 in what is a District 5 rematch won 12-0 by the Wolverines. Eight players have combined for 24 home runs for Windermere.

The First Academy dropped in classification after winning the 3A state championship in 2021 and reaching the region final round last season.

Four players are batting .400 or better for TFA, including senior Trent Kelly, who has 25 RBI and 13 extra-base hits. Two sophomores and two freshmen lead the pitching staff.

The Royals stand in the way of Foundation Academy (16-8-1) and Orangewood Christian (21-5) as the No. 1 seed in 2A Region 2.

Foundation defeated Orangewood 7-3 a year ago to reach the state semifinals.

Montverde Academy ranks No. 13 among all classes and is the No. 2 seed behind Coconut Creek North Broward Prep (23-4) in 3A Region 3.

The Eagles open with a District 9 rematch Tuesday against Trinity Prep (21-7), which they beat 9-1 on Thursday.

Regional quarterfinal winners advance to the semifinal round on Friday and Saturday. Region championship games take place May 15-16.

The FHSAA state tournament is scheduled for May 17-20 and May 22-25 in Fort Myers.

District final results

7A-2: Lake Mary 4, Port Orange Spruce Creek 2

7A-3: Winter Park 6, Timber Creek 4

7A-4: Lake Brantley 3, Apopka 2

7A-5: Windermere 12, Lake Nona 0

7A-9: Osceola 3, Harmony 2

6A-4: Winter Springs 3, Hagerty 2

6A-7: Lake Minneola 7, East River 6

5A-5: Daytona Beach Seabreeze 12, Deltona Pine Ridge 2

4A-7: Bishop Moore 9, Eustis 4

3A-9: Montverde Academy 9, Trinity Prep 1

2A-5: Spring Hill Bishop McLaughlin 10, First Academy-Leesburg 0

2A-6: Mount Dora Christian 7, The Master’s Academy 2

2A-7: The First Academy 5, Orangewood Christian 1

Regional Quarterfinals

Tuesday

5A Region 2

No. 8 Belleview (12-14) at No. 1 Lake Wales (21-6)

No. 5 Deltona Pine Ridge (14-6) at No. 4 Auburndale (11-14)

4A Region 2

No. 7 The Villages (14-14) at No. 2 Merritt Island (22-3)

No. 6 Dunnellon (15-11) at No. 3 Bishop Moore (19-7-1)

3A Region 3

No. 7 Trinity Prep (21-7) at No. 2 Montverde Academy (23-3)

No. 6 West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman (14-11) at No. 6 Palm Beach Gardens Benjamin (23-2)

2A Region 2

No. 8 The Master’s Academy (11-14) at No. 1 The First Academy (25-2)

No. 4 Foundation Academy (16-8-1) at No. 5 Mount Dora Christian (17-9)

No. 7 Lakeland Santa Fe (15-12) at No. 2 Lakeland Christian (20-5)

No. 3 Orangewood Christian (21-5) at No. 6 Spring Hill Bishop McLaughlin (14-6-1)

Wednesday

7A Region 1

No. 8 Flagler Palm Coast (16-12) at No. 1 Lake Mary (22-1)

No. 5 St. Johns Creekside (18-8) at No. 4 Winter Park (20-6)

No. 2 Timber Creek (20-6) at No. 7 Lake Brantley (18-8)

No. 8 Port Orange Spruce Creek (17-10) at No. 3 Jacksonville Sandalwood (18-5)

7A Region 2

No. 7 Lake Nona (19-7) at No. 2 Windermere High (23-3-1)

No. 6 Tampa Alonso (18-8) at No. 3 Plant City Durant (19-5)

7A Region 3

No. 8 Centennial (12-13) at No. 1 Lake Worth Park Vista (20-3-1)

No. 5 Wellington (15-8) at No. 4 Osceola (15-9)

No. 7 Harmony (14-12) at No. 2 Jupiter (15-7)

No. 6 Lantana Santaluces (15-9-1) at No. 3 Vero Beach (19-2)

6A Region 1

No. 8 Winter Springs (16-9-1) at No. 1 Pace (24-2)

No. 4 Cantonment Tate (18-7) at No. 5 Tallahassee Leon (20-7)

6A Region 2

No. 8 East River (18-9) at No. 1 Lakeland George Jenkins (21-6)

No. 5 Wesley Chapel Wiregrass Ranch (15-6) at No. 4 Land O’ Lakes (21-6)

No. 7 Melbourne (16-8) at No. 2 Viera (20-5)

No. 3 Lakeland (19-8) at No. 6 Lake Minneola (20-5)

This article originally appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email J.C. Carnahan at jcarnahan@orlandosentinel.com.