LAKELAND — The George Jenkins bats came out fast and Daniel Batcher did the rest.
The No. 1-ranked Eagles turned back crosstown-rival Lakeland 7-1 on Wednesday in a Class 8A regional semifinal at John Rodda Field.
Jenkins (25-3) will host the winner of St. Cloud against Oviedo Hagerty on Tuesday in the regional final with a trip to the FHSAA 8A state tournament riding in the balance. St. Cloud and Hagerty were rained out on Tuesday and Wednesday and are slated to play at noon today.
“If their ace throws under 104 pitches, he can come back against us on Tuesday,” Jenkins coach Chad Crosby said.
Batcher (10-0) went six innings against Lakeland (21-10), giving up just one run on five hits. He threw 90 pitches – 57 for strikes – while fanning eight Dreadnaughts. He walked three and hit one batter. With the run scored, his ERA rose to a still-sparkling 0.44 through 63 1/3 innings.
“He has been unreal. I looked at his numbers and he has thrown more innings than any kid I have ever had,” Crosby said. “But his pitch count is the same as guys who have thrown 10 innings less. He is efficient and throws strikes.”
Jenkins jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first after getting a bases-loaded walk from Jacob Herbert, an RBI single by Austin Blair and an RBI sac-bunt from Taylor Buffington.
The Eagles added a run in the second on an RBI double by Brady Allen – his second two-bagger in as many innings. Jenkins went up 5-0 in the third after an RBI sac-fly by Batcher to right field scored Blair.
Lakeland’s sophomore ace right-hander Drew Brutcher took the loss. He was pulled in third after giving up five runs on five hits and five walks. He struck out three and threw 63 pitches – 38 for strikes.
“We kind of knew what we were getting in to and figured we would see (Brutcher). We threw fastballs in batting practice to try simulate him as much as possible,” Crosby said. “He’s an outstanding pitcher.”
Jenkins scored two more in the fourth, the big hit was an RBI single by Blair.
“We told the boys we have to score more than five runs to beat Jenkins with their track record. We had 10 losses this year and six of them were to Bartow and Jenkins,” Lakeland coach Rick Moser said.