By JOHN C. COTEY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 14, 2002
TAMPA -- When Justin O'Keeffe needed help in a region semifinal, nursing a slim lead and tiring on the mound, Shawn Williams came in to save the day.
Monday at Legends Field, O'Keeffe returned the favor.
Throwing just one pitch, the CCC senior managed to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the seventh inning as the Marauders moved into today's championship game with a 5-4 victory over Gainesville P.K. Yonge.
CCC will meet Florida Christian, an 8-1 winner over Pensacola Christian, in trying to win its first state championship since 1979.
Coach Todd Vaughan was the starting shortstop on that team, and before Monday's semifinals showed his players newspaper clippings from that year.
"I told them it's going to be the best feeling you've ever had in your life if you get that far," Vaughan said.
They did, and O'Keeffe will start for CCC after picking up his first save of the season. After his error at third base allowed P.K. Yonge's first batter of the inning to reach base, the Blue Wave proceeded to rally with a walk and two hits, the second hit by Blake McDavid scoring a run to make it 4-3 with the bases still loaded as Doug Davies was held at third.
Williams, who won his 13th game, a school record, was then finished as Vaughan called for O'Keeffe.
"It's tough taking either one of them out," Vaughan said of his two four-year starters. "I'm sitting there like, I know this is my guy, but maybe we can cross something them up.
"He was getting his pitches up a little bit, I think they had him gauged a little bit and Justin's a different type of pitcher.
Facing Ryan Brown, O'Keeffe threw an outside fastball and Brown bounced the ball to shortstop Jamie McKean, who dropped to a knee to knock the ball down and flipped to second to end the game.
"Don't let it get by me," McKean said of his thoughts as the CCC season hopped toward him. "I knew if I just took it off the chest, I'd have an easy play at second."
McKean, who had a two-run single in the fifth inning, atoned for an earlier blunder when he left third early on a fly ball, ending a rally.
The Marauders, who hadn't scored more than four runs in their last four playoff wins, scored their runs Monday via small ball.
Though they had 12 hits, two of them were perfectly executed hit-and-run grounders, another two were knocked down by infielders and Brandon Diaz had a bloop double in the seventh, his second hit of the game.
"Whatever works," Vaughan said.
It was enough to frustrate starting pitcher Davies, especially the five singles CCC snuck through the infield in the fifth inning, including two just past the shortstop's backhand.
"All of them were seeing-eye singles," said Davies, who lost for the first time this year. "The only thing they could do with it was pull it through the infield."
Diaz's double proved to be a big one. Chris Heil singled him to third, and one out later, pinch-hitter Jude Maloney singled off Davies (8-1) to give CCC a valuable insurance run.
Williams worked out of trouble all game, allowing nine hits and walking three. He had runners in scoring position every inning but one, and stranded six runners.
In the sixth inning, P.K. Yonge loaded the bases with no outs before Williams got Blayne Willis to bounce into a 6-4-3 double play. It scored a run, but Williams got the next batter out on a groundout to end the threat.