LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Ryan Kennedy can't remember seeing a district season play out like the one that is unfolding in Lakewood Ranch's Class 8A-District 8 this season.
The Mustangs split a pair of meetings with Sarasota and those were the only loss for each entering the final day of district play Friday. Manatee and Palmetto had split a pair of games, and those were the teams' only wins. Ranch completed its district season with a 9-4 win against the Hurricanes at Lakewood Ranch High School on Friday but nothing is settled.
The Mustangs and Sailors will have a coin toss to determine the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds. The Canes and Tigers will have one to determine Nos. 3 and 4.
"We wanted to get a win here tonight," pitcher Colton Zimring said. "District's first seed is up in the air."
Zimring stifled Manatee for five innings, allowing one earned run as his pitch count climbed during the fifth and fatigue set in. The lefty finished with eight strikeouts, limited the Hurricanes to three hits and took a shutout into the fifth.
Zimring issued three of his five walks during the frame, including one to slugger Eric Crawford, which
forced middle infielder Zachery Rodgers home for the Canes' first run of the game.
By then, Ranch (9-3, 5-1) held a 7-0 lead and was well on its way to completing a season sweep of Manatee. Outfielder Trevor Losada led off the game with his sixth triple of the season and scored two batters later on a single by fellow outfielder Justin Fisicher.
"Once we start to hit a little bit we feed off each other," Kennedy said. "Honestly, last year it was one of those things where we needed that big hit. It seems like these guys just about every game get that big hit when we need it."
Fischer came around to score during the first to give Ranch a quick 2-0 lead.
In the second, Losada drove in one run and scored another when infielder Dylan Buck launched a two-run double to the left-field fence, stretching Lakewood Ranch's lead to 5-0.
And in the third the Mustangs scored twice more -- first on a double by Matt Ambrosino and then when the first baseman scored on a wild pitch. Hurricane pitcher Jordon Ely, who entered the game with a 1.94 ERA and beat Ranch a year ago, left after 2 2/3 innings and six earned runs.
The Canes (5-8, 1-5) got the bulk of its offense in the top of the seventh on a three-run home run by corner infielder Dillon Sullivan. While Lakewood Ranch settled for a tie with Sarasota atop the district following the Sailors' comeback win against PHS on Friday, Manatee is tied with Palmetto in the cellar.
The Mustangs and Sarasota are new to Class 8A after competing as district rivals in Class 7A last year. Ranch's season ended against the Sailors in the region semifinals in 2015, but performances like the one against a nemesis Friday give Lakewood Ranch faith for a potential postseason matchup with the Sailors, wherever that coin toss sends it.
"It's been crazy," Kennedy said. "It's been fun watching these guys. These guys are very athletic, and they surprise me each and every day they come out here."