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A memorable run

A look back at Ridgewood's remarkable trip through the 2002 postseason.

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 19, 2002

It was a long trip made up of countless small steps, a long-awaited final four appearance for a team whose success had been limited to the county's confines in its first 18 seasons.

After an easy first-round win at Central, the Rams found ways to upset three state-ranked teams, all away from home, to reach Thursday's Class 4A championship. Ridgewood's wild postseason ended with a harsh 13-0 loss to Jacksonville Bishop Kenny, but for coach Larry Beets and his resilient Rams, the real fun was getting there.

With that in mind, here are 10 of the most memorable moments from Ridgewood's 2002 postseason:

10. John Servidio's grand slam against Tarpon Springs

Ridgewood's playoff run started in the District 8 tournament, where Servidio's second slam of the year put the Spongers away in the sixth inning, turning a 4-2 game into an 8-2 waltz to a playoff spot. It was the first of five home runs in the postseason for Ridgewood, all of them coming in the late innings.

9. Aaron McLamar's catch of a Bishop Kenny line drive

There weren't many highlights for Ridgewood on Thursday, but one came in the second inning on a defensive gem from the sophomore third baseman. Cleanup hitter Dennis Anderson lined a shot to McLamar's left, but he dived, snagging the shot with his body parallel to the ground. One local TV station ran the catch -- and replayed it in slow motion -- among its highlights.

8. Ronny Lowe retiring 12 Dunedin batters in a row

The senior left-hander allowed the Falcons' first three batters to reach base, but took control in the second inning. Without the slew of strikeouts he's normally good for, Lowe retired 12 batters in a row, with only two balls leaving the infield. Five grounders went to Richie Hittel at short and three more to McLamar at third, and the defense helped keep the Rams in the game. Errors made things tense in the final two innings, but Lowe managed to hold his opponents to exactly one run for the third time in as many postseason starts.

7. Richie Hittel gutting it out against Ocala Forest

Forest's first three batters scored against Hittel, and it wasn't until the fourth inning that Ridgewood got its first hit when Hittel doubled off Michael Musgrave. Monte Werner and Servidio followed with RBI doubles and Danny Lotz tied the game with a single. Hittel allowed a single baserunner in the fourth and fifth and enjoyed a 1-2-3 sixth. A walk and a single in the seventh put two on with one out, but Hittel forced Forest's cleanup hitter to pop out to first and got a grounder to shortstop to seal the comeback victory.

6. Manufacturing a run Beets-style vs. Seabreeze

A two-out error had given Daytona Beach Seabreeze a 1-0 lead and McLamar was at second with two outs after a walk and a balk. A bunt single by freshman Jon Koenigsfeld put runners at the corners. Beets called on Corey Opalka to pinch-hit. The junior, who had only four RBIs in the regular season, hit a chopper over the third baseman's head to tie the game.

5. Danny Lotz's 290-foot homer quieting crowd at Ocala Forest

A crowd of 983 was packed around Forest Field. But in the sixth inning with the game tied, the stadium fell silent after Lotz -- who had homered against Central in the previous game -- drove a ball down the rightfield line, where a short porch put the fence at 290 feet. The rightfielder looked to make the catch, but lost the ball over the fence as he ran into it, sending the Ridgewood fans into a frenzy as Lotz rounded the bases, giving the Rams a 4-3 lead that would stand for the win.

4. Tied 1-1, gunning down Seabreeze at the plate

Lowe had gone 13 batters without allowing a hit when Seabreeze came alive in the sixth inning, getting back-to-back singles with two outs. When pitcher Josh Ridenour ripped another single to rightfield, Koenigsfeld, making only his second start in right, came up throwing and got the ball to Werner, who tagged out the runner to end the inning.

3. Josh Le'Roy's single for a lead against Dunedin

After struggling against Dunedin's Ryan Harvey for four innings, the Rams' offense clicked in the fifth, sparked by the bottom of the order. Josh Rose singled under the first baseman's glove, and Koenigsfeld's sacrifice bunt was bobbled by the pitcher, then thrown wide into rightfield, putting runners at second and third. A squeeze play failed when Lotz bunted foul with two strikes, but Le'Roy followed with a two-run single past the second baseman. A bases-loaded walk would pad the Rams' lead, but Le'Roy's clutch hit was all the support Lowe would need.

2. A squeeze bunt to beat Seabreeze in extra innings

After a 1-1 tie through seven innings, Lotz led off the eighth with a walk, took second on McLamar's sacrifice bunt, then advanced to third on Josh Rose's single to centerfield. With runners on the corners and one out, Beets called for a squeeze play, and as Lotz sped toward home, Koenigsfeld laid down a bunt just slow enough to allow Lotz to beat the pitcher's throw home. In the bottom of the inning, Lowe put down the Sandcrabs 1-2-3, winning despite pitching one inning more than the state allows in a single week.

1. Getting the final out to upset No. 1 Dunedin

The Falcons, ranked No. 1 in the nation by, made things interesting as they rallied in the seventh, trailing 3-1. The first two batters had reached base in the sixth, only to be stranded, but down to its final out, Dunedin rallied had enough for one more rally. An error, single and Lowe's first walk loaded the bases for Steve Doetsch, who led the Falcons with a .536 average. He got hold of a 1-0 pitch but sent a shot directly to Lotz, who made the reflex catch at first base to clinch the victory. The upset marked the first time in 19 years that an undefeated team had lost in the state tournament.

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