High School Sports

Postseason prep baseball in Manatee County begins tonight

BRADENTON -- Good things come to those who win.

Just ask Bayshore, Lakewood Ranch and Manatee's baseball teams.

While the area's other schools open district tournament play tonight, the Bruins, Mustangs and Hurricanes will be enjoying first-round byes and waiting to see who they face during Wednesday's semifinals.

Here is a look at the districts involving area schools.

The champion and runner-up qualify for the regional tournament, which gets under way May 2 (Classes 3A, 5A and 7A) and May 3 (2A, 4A, 6A, 8A).

Class 7A-District 11

All eyes will be on the Canes, who are looking for a second straight trip to the state final four. Despite a wobbly regular season, Manatee finished 16-9 (last year's edition began the postseason with eight losses) and earned the tournament's No. 2 seed, meaning the Canes -- district champs last year for the first time since 2002 -- host either Charlotte or Port Charlotte on Wednesday at G.T. Bray, and they are a win away from a fourth straight trip to the region playoffs. Braden River earned the fourth seed and hosts Sarasota tonight, while Venice is the tournament's No. 1 seed and meets either the Pirates

or Sailors during Wednesday's other semifinal.

Manatee and Venice split two regular-season meetings, but the Hurricanes beat the Indians in extra innings in Sarasota Baseball Classic semifinal that did not count toward the district standings.

Class 6A-District 12

Lakewood Ranch was the lone Manatee County team to earn a top seed after finishing the year 19-6 overall and 4-0 in district play. The Mustangs meet the winner of tonight's game between fifth-seeded St. Petersburg Dixie Hollins and No. 4 Palmetto.

Lakewood Ranch came within an out of a district championship last year and are looking for a third-straight trip to regional under coach Mike Mullen.

The Tigers host today's 7 p.m. start.

Second-seeded Seminole Osceola hosts No. 3 Largo in Wednesday's other semifinal.

Class 5A-District 12

Buoyed by a seven-game winning streak that included three wins over district foes, Bayshore earned the No. 2 seed as well as a home game Wednesday against either Southeast or St. Petersburg Lakewood.

The Bruins last district baseball championship came in 2008.

The area's other local team, Southeast, is seeded fifth and heads to Lakewood tonight.

Dunedin is the No. 1 seed and plays either sixth-seeded St. Petersburg Gibbs or No. 3 Gulfport Boca Ciega in a Wednesday semifinal. The perennially powerful Falcons beat Bayshore 11-3 during the regular season.

Class 3A-District 10

This is a four-team district, meaning everyone starts in the semifinals, the tournament takes two days, and every game is played at one site.

That site is Out-of-Door Academy, which is fitting, considering the Thunder rolled to the tournament's top seed. They play fourth-seed Bradenton Christian tonight at 7:30.

Today's opener pits second-seeded Cardinal Mooney against No. 3 Saint Stephen's at 4:30 p.m.

Winners head back to ODA on Thursday for the championship game, set for 7:30 p.m.