By: J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola
Four different district championships – covering three sports and involving seven Osceola County teams – will be contested at 6 p.m. Thursday night with an automatic bid to regionals on the line for the winners.
In baseball, top-seeded Osceola, 14-9, will host Harmony, 14-11, at 6 p.m. for the Class 7A, District 9 championship. The Kowboys earned their way to the finals with an 11-1 thrashing of Celebration in the semifinals. Luis Vargas collected three hits, drove in two runs and scored two others and three Osceola pitchers combined on a two-hitter in the game.
The Kowboys would get all the runs they would need in the second inning as John Rodriguez delivered a two-run single and Osceola took advantage of two Storm errors to add three unearned runs for a 5-0 lead.
It was more of the same in the third, as Jansel Nieve cleared the bases with a three-run triple on a sky fly to left field that was lost in the sun. Jason Ramos added an RBI single as Osceola jumped out to a 9-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Osceola pitchers were dominating – taking a no-hitter into the sixth. Carlos Negron pitched the first two innings, allowing just one walk. Samuel Rivas also allowed just one walk in the next two innings, before reliever Nathaniel Garda retired the Storm in order in the fifth.
Celebration would break up the no-hitter and finally get on the board in the sixth as leadoff hitter Alejandro Hernandez would push a single through the left side, advance to second on a wild pitch and take third on a balk before eventually scoring on Sebastian Rivera’s ground out. But the rally was short-lived and the Kowboys would load the bases with no out in the bottom of the sixth before Vargas’ two-run single ended the game on the 10-run mercy rule.
“We really got what we needed tonight,” Osceola coach Scott Birchler said. “The most important thing was not to look ahead and we were able to stay in the moment and take care of business. When we jumped out to the big lead, it allowed us to adjust how we used our pitchers. We should have everyone available on Thursday.”
Birchler will be looking for his eighth district title when the Kowboys host Harmony on Friday night.
The Longhorns, despite being the second seed, have already beat Osceola three times this year – defeating the Kowboys 11-2 at home, 5-4 in the Orange Belt Conference Finals at Poinciana and 12-9 at Osceola in the most recent meeting on April 7.
Harmony reached the finals with a convincing 9-1 win over Tohopekaliga as Evan Christ pitched four and one-third innings of one hit ball – striking out five. Sophomore Samuel Matos and junior Iziah Santiago had two RBI each for the Longhorns.
“It should be another great game against two pretty evenly-matched teams,” Birchler said. “Whoever can get the big hits and make the fewest mistakes will probably win.” Currently Osceola is ranked fifth in Region 3 and Harmony is seventh. Barring any upsets, the loser of Thursday’s game could still advance to regionals as an at-large selection.
In Class 6A, District 8, St. Cloud’s season came to an end Tuesday night with a 14-0 loss to top-seeded Viera in the semifinals. The Bulldogs, 8-12, advanced to the semifinals with a 6-4 win over Heritage on Monday night. Roman Lopez knocked in three runs for the Bulldogs in that game.
In Class 5A, District 7 play, Liberty (11-11) lost a 6-0 decision to Lake Wales (20-6) in the semifinals. The Chargers reached that point on Monday with an 11-0 win over Gateway. David Jimenez and Alexander Gonzalez combined on a five-hitter and Kenai Crespo drove in two runs for the Chargers.
In 7A, District 10 softball action, top-seeded Osceola (12-9) will meet Harmony (9-7) on Thursday for the district championship and the automatic bid to regional play. The Lady Kowboys punched their way to the finals with an 11-1 win over Tohopekaliga.
Senior Kaylee Jones scored four runs and drove in two more to back the complete game pitching performance of Alexis Miranda, who allowed just one hit and struck out nine in the game that was shortened to six innings by the 10-run rule.
In Harmony’s 9-6 win over Poinciana, freshman Emerson Asian scored four runs and drove in two others. Dominica Kohout had two RBI as the Lady Kowboys won for the fifth time in their last six games. Poinciana, who got a home run from Aidalee Vargas, finishes its season at 14-9 – the first winning season in school history.
The District title game will be a rematch of the Orange Belt Conference Tournament semifinal game, won by Osceola, 11-4.
In 7A, District 9 action, second-seeded St. Cloud edged third-seeded Lake Nona, 4-3, to earn a spot in Thursday’s title game against top-seeded Boone, a 14-1 winner over Boone.
In 5A, District 6 games, both Liberty and Gateway saw their seasons come to an end in the semifinals. Gateway dropped a 15-0 decision to top-seeded Auburndale; Liberty dropped a 12-1 decision to Horizon.
The Celebration Storm (17-9) will host Tohopekaliga (17-8) on Thursday night at 6 p.m. for the Class 1A, District 10 championship. The Storm, winners of four straight and nine of their last 10 matches, swept past Poinciana in the semifinals (25-15, 25-12, 25-19) as Darion Graham had a team-high 10 kills.
The Tigers reached the finals with a straight-set, 25-22, 25-23, 25-19 win over St. Cloud. It was the Tigers’ fourth win of the season over the Bulldogs. Tohopekaliga and Celebration have met one time this season with the Storm taking a straight-set win in the Orange Belt Conference Tournament Finals.
DISTRICT CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
Baseball 7A, District 9 Harmony at Osceola, 6 p.m., Thursday
Softball 7A, District 10 Harmony at Osceola, 6 p.m., Thursday
Softball 7A, District 9 St. Cloud at Boone, 6 p.m., Thursday
Boys Volleyball 1A, District 10 Tohopekaliga at Celebration, 6 p.m.,Thursday