Winter Springs, Master’s Academy pull FHSAA baseball playoff upsets

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Unassuming and undeterred, it was underdogs that highlighted the opening of the Florida High School Athletic Association baseball regional playoffs this week.

Winter Springs and The Master’s Academy — No. 8 seeds in their regions — were among five Orlando area teams that upset higher-ranked opponents in quarterfinal games.

Winter Springs (17-9-1) traveled more than six hours into the Panhandle to thump heralded Pace (24-3), which entered the playoffs at No. 20 nationally in MaxPreps Xcellent rankings. The Bears peppered 12 hits and 3 home runs during a 10-4 win in Class 6A Region 1.

“Our guys can hit,” Winter Springs coach Mike Bradley said last week after winning a district championship in extra innings vs. Hagerty. “The faster the pitching the better we are.”

Senior Jacob McKenzie and juniors Marco Gonzalez and Sam Downey went 3-for-4 at the plate. McKenzie, Gonzalez and senior Matthew George each homered and finished with 3 RBI.

The Bears, playing without pitchers Joey Wimpelberg (UCF signee) and Noah Campbell (UCF commit) due to injury, travel Saturday for a semifinal at No. 5 Tallahassee Leon (21-7).

The Master’s Academy (12-14) will be in Winter Garden on Friday to face No. 4 Foundation Academy (17-8-1) in a 2A-2 semi after winning 3-1 at The First Academy (25-3), the region’s No. 1 seed.

Foundation, led by senior power-hitter Braden Holcomb, reached the 2A state tournament in 2022.

“It was a huge win for us,” Master’s Academy coach Todd Bellhorn said after upending TFA. “We had to play a clean game to beat those guys.”

Like Winter Springs, the Eagles were hampered by injuries and inconsistencies since opening the season with a notable 4-2 win vs. Bishop Moore.

“We’ve been playing pretty well the past couple weeks,” Bellhorn said. “A lot of things have been clicking for us, and will have to keep clicking for us in this next game.”

Bellhorn’s son, junior Jackson Bellhorn, finished with 7 strikeouts and allowed only 4 hits while pitching a complete game vs. TFA. He also went 2-for-3 with a home run and double. Senior Zachary Kelly finished 2-for-3 with a homer and 2 RBI.

The First Academy, the 3A state champion in 2021 and a region finalist in ‘22, entered the tournament ranked No. 20 in the state with an FHSAA playoff power rating of 17.56. Only 7A’s Lake Mary at No. 10 and 3A’s Montverde Academy at No. 13 rank higher among Orlando area teams.

Master’s qualified for regionals as a district runner-up with a measly 3.05 power rating.

“Baseball is just a weird game,” Bellhorn said. “We’ve had a hard time putting all the pieces of the puzzle together consistently. We’ve done it a few times here and there, but this was a big-time team effort.”

No. 3 Bishop Moore (20-7-1) won 2-0 vs. No. 6 Dunnellon (15-12) in 4A-2 and will now host No. 7 The Villages (15-14) on Friday at Joe Skinner Field. The Hornets, 4-0 vs. The Villages since 2016, needed two runs in the bottom of seventh for a 3-2 win when the teams last played in March.

Lake Mary (23-1), with 12 seniors on roster, extended its win streak to 23 in a row while making quick work of Flagler Palm Coast (16-13) during a 10-0 win in 5 innings in 7A-1. The Rams are home Saturday vs. No. 4 Winter Park (21-6), which defeated Lake Mary 4-3 last season.

No. 7 Lake Brantley (19-8) plays at No. 6 Port Orange Spruce Creek (18-10) in the other Region 1 semifinal after scoring a 3-0 upset of No. 2 Timber Creek (20-7). Junior Isaac Padilla struck out 7 batters while issuing 3 hits and 2 walks. Junior Jackson Golden went 2-for-3.

Spruce Creek has taken three of the past four meetings with the Patriots, including a 3-1 win last month.

No. 2 Windermere High (24-3-1) hosts No. 3 Plant City Durant (20-5) in 7A-2 and No. 4 Kissimmee Osceola (16-9) travels to No. 1 Lake Worth Park (21-3-1) in 7A-3 after pulling out wins by identical 6-3 scores.

The Wolverines overcame a 3-1 deficit to No. 7 Lake Nona (19-8) as sophomore Connor Fink pitched 2 shutout innings in relief and seniors Holden Brauner and Justin Grant each drove in 2 runs.

Osceola broke a 2-2 score by plating 4 runs in the sixth against No. 5 Wellington (15-9). Senior Carlos Negron pitched 6 1/3 innings in relief and struck out 8 batters without allowing a hit or earned run. Junior Nick Palmi went 3-for-3 with 2 RBI.

Lake Minneola and Deltona Pine Ridge round out the area’s lower-seeded regional quarterfinal winners.

The No. 6 Hawks (21-5) won 4-0 vs. No. 3 Lakeland (19-9) in 6A-2 as senior Ethan Diaz struck out 9 batters, allowed 1 hit and went 2-for-2 with an RBI. Senior Keegan Zinn hit a home run.

Senior Nicholas Morrissette yielded 5 hits and struck out 7 as No. 5 Pine Ridge (15-6) won 8-1 vs. No. 4 Auburndale (11-15) in 5A-2. Senior Vince Reyes went 2-for-4 with 2 runs scored and an RBI.

No. 2 Montverde (24-3) will host No. 3 Benjamin (24-2) of Palm Beach Gardens on Friday in 3A-3. The Eagles marked their return to FHSAA postseason play after more than a decade as an independent with a 4-0 vs.Trinity Prep (21-8). Seniors Alexis Goytia and Anthony Cole hit home runs.

Friday and Saturday winners advance to region championship games Monday and Tuesday. The FHSAA state tournament is scheduled for Wednesday-next Friday and May 22-25 in Fort Myers.

Quarterfinal Results

7A-1: No. 1 Lake Mary 10, No. 8 Flagler Palm Coast 0 (5 inn); No. 4 Winter Park 10, No. 5 St. Johns Creekside 0 (5 inn); No. 7 Lake Brantley 3, No. 2 Timber Creek 0; No. 6 Port Orange Spruce Creek 9, No. 3 Jacksonville Sandalwood 3.

7A-2: No. 2 Windermere High 6, No. 7 Lake Nona 3; No. 3 Plant City Durant 2, No. 6 Tampa Alonso 1.

7A-3: No. 1 Lake Worth Park Vista 9, No. 8 Centennial 1; No. 4 Osceola 6, No. 5 Wellington 3; No. 2 Jupiter 3, No. 7 Harmony 2 (8 inn).

6A-1: No. 8 Winter Springs 10, No. 1 Pace 4; No. 5 Tallahassee Leon 6, No. 4 Cantonment Tate 5.

6A-2: No. 1 Lakeland George Jenkins 6, No. 8 East River 5; No. 2 Viera 4, No. 7 Melbourne 2; No. 6 Lake Minneola 4, No. 3 Lakeland 0.

5A-2: No. 1 Lake Wales 10, No. 8 Belleview 0; No. 5 Deltona Pine Ridge 8, No. 4 Auburndale 1.

4A-2: No. 7 The Villages 4, No. 2 Merritt Island 3; No. 3 Bishop Moore 2, No. 6 Dunnellon 0.

3A-3: No. 2 Montverde Academy 4, No. 7 Trinity Prep 0; No. 3 Palm Beach Gardens Benjamin 8, No. 6 Cardinal Newman 3.

2A-2: No. 8 The Master’s Academy 3, No. 1 The First Academy 1; No. 4 Foundation Academy 5, No. 5 Mount Dora Christian 2; No. 6 Spring Hill Bishop McLaughlin 5, No. 3 Orangewood Christian 3.

Regional Semifinals


5A Region 2

No. 5 Deltona Pine Ridge (15-6) at No. 1 Lake Wales (22-6)

No. 6 Daytona Beach Seabreeze (14-10) at No. 2 Sebring (22-6)

4A Region 2

No. 4 Brooksville Hernando (23-4) at No. 1 Citra North Marion (23-5)

No. 7 The Villages (15-14) at No. 3 Bishop Moore (20-7-1)

3A Region 3

No. 5 Boca Raton St. John Paul II (15-10-1) at No. 1 Coconut Creek North Broward Prep (24-4)

No. 3 Palm Beach Gardens Benjamin (24-2) at No. 2 Montverde Academy (24-3)

2A Region 2

No. 8 The Master’s Academy (12-14) at No. 4 Foundation Academy (17-8-1)

No. 6 Spring Hill Bishop McLaughlin (15-6-1) at No. 2 Lakeland Christian (21-5)


7A Region 1

No. 4 Winter Park (21-6) at No. 1 Lake Mary (23-1)

No. 7 Lake Brantley (19-8) at No. 6 Port Orange Spruce Creek (18-10)

7A Region 2

No. 4 Bradenton Lakewood Ranch (18-7) at No. 1 Tampa Plant (18-7)

No. 3 Plant City Durant (20-5) at No. 2 Windermere High (24-3-1)

7A Region 3

No. 4 Osceola (16-9) at No. 1 Lake Worth Park Vista (21-3-1)

No. 3 Vero Beach (20-2) at No. 2 Jupiter (16-7)

6A Region 1

No. 8 Winter Springs (17-9-1) at No. 5 Tallahassee Leon (21-7)

No. 3 Lynn Haven Mosley (19-9) at No. 2 Gainesville Buchholz (20-6)

6A Region 2

No. 4 Land O’ Lakes (22-6) at No. 1 Lakeland George Jenkins (22-6)

No. 6 Lake Minneola (21-5) at No. 2 Viera (21-5)

This article originally appeared on Email J.C. Carnahan at