LAKELAND — Power and pitching propelled George Jenkins to a playoff win on Tuesday.
The Eagles knocked of Wellington 5-2 at John Rodda Field in an FHSAA Class 8A regional quarterfinal after getting 6 1/3 solid innings from left-hander Daniel Batcher and two home run blasts from Brandt Sundean.
”(Sundean) does that every day in batting practice,” Jenkins head coach Chad Crosby said. “I haven’t seen high school kids hit the ball as hard as he does, consistently. We see it every day. Those were like pop-ups compared to some of the balls he hits. I tell the scouts, ‘Everyone loves him on the hill, but you can’t teach that power. It’s raw power.’”
With the win, the No. 1-ranked Eagles (25-3) will host ninth-ranked Lakeland on Tuesday in a regional semifinal, which also happened last year with Jenkins prevailing. Lakeland advanced after holding off Seminole Ridge on the road, 1-0.
Batcher improved his record to 9-0 on the season, giving up just five hits and two runs – one earned – while striking out six and walking two. He threw 104 pitches and 63 were strikes.
“I didn’t give my best performance, but early on I was getting fastballs by guys or they were fouling them off. Then I would come back with hard curveballs in the dirt and some changeups were moving a lot,” Batcher said. “Everything was working but if I started working too fast, I started to lose accuracy.”
The Eagles went up 5-1 in the bottom of the fifth, scoring four runs. The rally started when Jackson Ross doubled and scored on a line-shot RBI single by Jake Herbert for a 2-1 lead.
“I was in the dugout and I told the guys, ‘Don’t panic. Trust the process,’” said Crosby, getting the Eagles to answer to Wellington’s run in the fourth.
A walk later, Danny Maloney came into relieve Wellington starter Alex Mendez and was promptly greeted with a towering three-run homer by Sundean – his second of the game – to right-center field.
Jenkins had taken a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth when Sundean crushed a solo home run, also to right-center.
Wellington answered in the top of the fifth with an RBI single by Tyler Retzler, scoring Gavin Hendrix to tie the game 1-1.
Jenkins has hit 18 home runs this season.
“I didn’t see one fastball all night, I only saw off-speed stuff so that is what I was looking for,” said Sundean, who has hit four home runs this season.