By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 26, 2002
BROOKSVILLE -- Josh Smith was a wreck all day. So excited at being Central's starting pitcher in the district final Thursday, all he could do in school was put his head down and dream. Smith hardly could have fantasized a better performance. The junior tossed a complete game to lead Central to an 8-2 stifling of Leesburg and its second district title. "My adrenaline was pumped all day," Smith (5-3) said. "This one is one of those things you dream about as a kid. You get a chance to pitch a district championship, and you win. It's just, God, the best."
Central (15-12) will host District 8 runner-up Ridgewood at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the region quarterfinals.
Central lost to Ridgewood, 11-0, in the teams' only meet this season. Central lost to Hudson 4-2, in its first game of the season.
Top-seeded Central busted open a 1-0 game with four runs in the fourth and three in the fifth, using three errors and two-run singles by Arnold Mendoza and D.J. Anderson to dump the third seed.
"We got a couple of breaks and a couple of timely hits," Central coach Gary Buel said. "We created some opportunities."
NEW PORT RICHEY -- Hudson's 8-5 upset of top-seeded Ridgewood in Thursday's championship meant more than just the school's second district title. For the Cobras, this victory was all about respect.
"Everybody's goal, throughout the whole season, was to beat Ridgewood in the district championship game," said pitcher Bryan Strawser, who picked up the win in relief. "Now we're here and we've done it. This was a big win for us to get respect in this district on the west side."
Hudson (19-8) got a 4-0 lead in the first without putting a ball out of the infield, thanks to four Ridgewood errors. The Cobras built the lead with two runs in the second and fifth and got just enough innings out of three pitchers already busy this week.
Rob Petrucci and Strawser, who started Monday and Tuesday's games, each went three-plus innings, and Kenny Eva, Tuesday's winner, got the last two outs for a save.
Ridgewood (23-7) had home runs from Aaron McLamar and Monte Werner but was doomed by missed opportunities. The Rams struck out with the bases loaded to end the first and fourth innings and grounded into double plays to end each of the last two. Hudson opens the regional playoffs at home Tuesday against Leesburg, while Ridgewood will travel to face District 7 champion Central.
-- GREG AUMAN
CRYSTAL RIVER -- Quiet most of the night, Crystal River's bats awoke at the right time.
Trailing by one and down to their final two outs, the Pirates strung together consecutive RBI-singles to stun Dunnellon 3-2.
"That's the mark of our team," Pirates coach Brent Hall said. "We've got a lot of heart. We really came off the deck. That was a great game."
Jonathan Runnels' one-out hit up the middle tied the score at 2, and Jimmy Metz followed with a single to left that scored Tim Embree. Runnels had three hits, two doubles.
Crystal River (27-3) lost to Dunnellon (21-9) in last year's district final. But it outscored Dunnellon 19-1 in two regular-season victories this spring.
Crystal River's William Bunch (4-1) allowed five hits and two runs, both in the second. He escaped further damage in the second by striking out three consecutive batters with the bases loaded.
Dunnellon's Donny Roof shut down the Pirates until the seventh. He struck out seven.
-- KEITH NIEBUHR
MULBERRY -- Pasco had an easy time clinching a regional playoff berth and spot in tonight's championship game, cruising past Zephyrhills 6-0 on Thursday.
Junior left-hander Chris Nyman threw a one-hitter and was backed by two-run home runs from Anton Standifer and Lee Cruz, who capped off the scoring with a two-run double.
The Pirates, 23-4 and ranked sixth in Class 3A, advance to tonight's 7:30 championship against Bartow, a 6-4 winner over Mulberry on Thursday.
Zephyrhills (8-21) got its lone hit in the fifth when designated hitter Eric Bahr ripped a single just inside the leftfield line. The Bulldogs' only other baserunners came on five walks from Nyman, who also struck out six.
Pasco tagged Bulldogs sophomore Jake Cimorelli with his first loss of the year, totaling 10 hits against three pitchers, six for extra bases.
-- GREG AUMAN