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Loss puts an end to Cobras' season but not their pride

By STEVE LEE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 5, 2002

OCALA -- If not for the scoreboard, one would be hard-pressed to decipher the winner of Friday's Class 4A, Region 3 semifinal between Ocala Forest and visiting Hudson.

The scoreboard said the host Wildcats had won 6-3.

So where were the tears for the Cobras? Why no forlorn faces? And rather than the get-'em-next-year speeches, fans shared smiles and pats on the back while congratulating Hudson ballplayers.

Heck, even Hudson athletic director Linda McQuade emerged from the dugout with a smile.

On the surface, the Cobras (20-9) bowed out of the playoffs.

But more meaningful than one game was the collective celebration for a school-record season by all those who ventured north on I-75.

"After the last out, I looked around in the dugout and nobody held their heads down," said first baseman Justin Razey, one of three seniors.

Then Razey grinned wide and said, "We won a district championship. That's the first time (for Hudson) in 28 years. That's what we've got to look back on. We can't hold our heads down when we accomplished so much.

"I'm proud of this season."

Hudson coach Jack Ledbetter lauded his players for getting the bat on the ball Friday. The Cobras, who struck out four times with one walk and a hit batter, put the ball in play.

"Part of what got us where we're at is we pressure teams to make mistakes, but they didn't make any," Ledbetter said of the Wildcats, who turned in an error-free game.

Ledbetter also noted how his team did not get down, even after making three costly errors that gave Forest four unearned runs in the second inning.

"I'm proud of the effort they gave tonight," Ledbetter said. "We didn't fall apart.

Senior Rob Petrucci, a pitcher/outfielder, said Hudson's postseason run earned the team some respect he felt it had been lacking.

"All of us pulled together and got this far," Petrucci said. "I feel we've got some respect now."

Hudson's best season also bodes well for the future, Ledbetter noted.

"The younger kids got a taste of a 20-win season and a district title," the coach said. "Once you get that taste, you want to continue to be competitive."

Forest coach Wayne Yancey gave the Cobras their due after Friday's game, saying, "They won 20 games. You don't do that falling out of bed."

Yancey's comments notwithstanding, Ledbetter gave a bit more weight to Ridgewood coach Larry Beets speaking highly of Hudson before its game against Forest.

"When Larry Beets speaks highly of you, that speaks a lot," Ledbetter said. "He's the kind of guy, when he speaks it's a clinic.

"A lot of our success is what I learned from listening to Larry Beets."

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