Few saw Chiefs' success coming
By MIKE READLING, Times Staff Writer
TAMPA -- If you had taken a midseason poll of high school coaches throughout Hillsborough County you would have been hard-pressed to come up with more than one or two votes for Chamberlain or Bloomingdale to be the Hillsborough County representatives at the state baseball tournament.
King probably would have gotten some votes. Plant a few. Maybe even a couple for Sickles, Armwood and Durant. But the Chiefs, who entered their district tournament with a 10-11 record, and the Bulls who went in at 12-14? Little chance.
It's a good thing state tournament berths aren't determined by a raise of hands then, isn't it?
When Chamberlain and Bloomingdale step on to Legends Field tonight for their Class 5A and Class 6A semifinal games, it will be culmination of a stunning finish to an otherwise uneventful season and the end of a week in which both teams did their best to stay loose.
"I thought we would be pretty good and we could compete in our district and maybe play in the regionals," Chamberlain coach Dick Rohrberg said. "But I don't think anyone would have imagined we'd be in the state final four."
That presented Rohrberg with a whole new set of problems. How do you keep a bunch of 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds from going crazy while waiting more than a week to play the most important game of their lives?
Monday was an intrasquad game with a couple of television cameras looking on. Tuesday was a night practice at Jefferson so the team could get under some lights before its night game tonight. A lighter practice with a bullpen session Wednesday and just a cursory, show up and hit a few balls, pick up a few grounders, throw a few pitches run-through on Thursday.
It seemed to be working.
Before Tuesday's practice, several players picked up a stress relief ball and took turns pitching to each other, marveling at the big curves they could throw with the softer ball, hooting even louder when a batter actually got a bat on a pitch.
"They seem pretty loose, huh?" Rohrberg said. "There's no pressure. Nobody even thinks we're allowed to be here. They're looking at this like a field trip. We've already been on a field trip to Lakeland (region quarterfinals) and Orlando (region semifinals) and now we're going on one to Legends Field. It's like how the science classes go to Busch Gardens, we're just going to Legends Field."
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