High school baseball and softball playoffs preview

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SARASOTA - There are 11 teams left in the high school softball and baseball regional playoffs; 5 for the girls and 6 for the boys.

The girls softball regional semifinals will be held Tuesday night as Courtney Mirabella and her 223 strikeouts lead the 22-5 Braden River Pirates to a District 7A title rematch against the 17-11 Sarasota Sailors.

"Courtney by far leads the team with her composure. When the pressure is on, she comes through. She enjoys it. She wants it. She wants to be in the high pressure situation," says Braden River head coach Erin Spivey.

Recently, the Sarasota Sailors and the Venice Indians have been the closest to a state championship. Venice lost 1-0 in the championship game to Bartram Trail on a walk-off balk in 2009. Sarasota lost in the final game in 2010.

But now Lakewood Ranch will host Strawberry Crest in 6A, while in 5A, Lemon Bay is at home against Cape Coral Mariner and Bayshore travels to Tampa Blake.

Switching to baseball, the Venice Indians won the state baseball title in 2007 and again last season. They have been nationally ranked this season as the defense of their title continues Thursday night against Sebastian River.

"I think we try to forget the surrounding hype around it and stuff like that, and just play our game. We don't worry about the rankings and state championship and stuff. We just go out and play our game," says Venice 2nd baseman Colton Lightner.

In other Regional Quarterfinal games, the Sarasota Sailors are on the road at South Fork. Out-of-Door Academy is home against Calvary Christian, while Cardinal Mooney plays at Clearwater Central Catholic.

The Sarasota Christian nine are coming off their first loss of the season, and at 25-1 they hope to keep this magical season going in memory of their coach's late wife, Stephanie Lee.

Those games are Thursday, but Sean Labsan leads the Riverview Rams into Class 8A action against Durant in Plant City Wednesday night at 7pm.