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Falcons return to basics, snap skid

By JARRETT GUTHRIE

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 7, 2002


TAMPA -- Since its 10-0 loss to Sickles in the Saladino Tournament championship game last weekend, Leto's play has been lethargic.

TAMPA -- Since its 10-0 loss to Sickles in the Saladino Tournament championship game last weekend, Leto's play has been lethargic.

"I was a little worried coming out of the Saladino," Falcons coach Scott Hoffman said. "We dropped two (games) with lackluster playing on the field and our bats haven't been there."

Entering Saturday's game against Hillsborough, Leto was one game below .500 and mired in a three game losing streak.

However, the Falcons snapped out of their funk by defeating the Terriers 5-0 behind the arm of junior right-hander Justin Valdez.

"(Valdez) did a great job," Hoffman said. "That is how I've expected him to pitch all year and he finally did."

Valdez allowed four hits in seven innings and struck out four.

"I executed pitch by pitch and trusted my infield," Valdez said. "When (a pitch) wasn't working I eliminated it."

After getting a run in the first on an RBI double by Sergio Perez that scored Chris Garcia, a hiccup in baserunning cost Leto its second run when Jeorge Rayneri missed third on his way home to end the inning.

Leto's Lamont Jordan and Jeorge Bravo scored in the fourth after being hit in back-to-back at-bats by Hillsborough starter Chris Kopa.

In all, Kopa hit five batters and it cost him again in the fifth when Perez scored the second run of the inning after being hit in the back.

On defense, the Falcons assisted Valdez with solid fielding.

Shortstop Roberto Pajon was a barrier in the middle with three putouts and five assists.

"We had a good nucleus behind (Valdez)," Hoffman said. "Today we went back to the basics and it was one day of good baseball."

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