By ANTHONY GAGLIANO
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 24, 2002
TAMPA -- Pinellas Park pulled off an improbable last-inning comeback Tuesday to eliminate defending state champion Palm Harbor 3-2 and claim the Section 7 Senior baseball title.
Trailing 2-0 in the seventh, Jimmy Haas drew a one-out walk, the only free pass issued by Palm Harbor's Cody Rainer. Steve Mullins followed with a single and Kyle Scott played the hero by belting a three-run homer for the lead.
District 12 champion Palm Harbor didn't roll over and die, though, opening the bottom of the seventh with back-to-back singles off Pinellas Park's Ryan Koch. Koch bore down to strikeout Chris Heil for the first out. Heil was Pinellas Park's nemesis in pool play Sunday, homering twice.
Koch then narrowly missed inducing John Petika into a double play. Petika stole second to put runners on second and third with two outs as Rainer stepped to the plate. But Koch struck him out to end the game.
9-10 BASEBALL: Tampa Bay narrowly averted disaster, hanging on for a 9-8 victory over East Lake.
The title seemed in the bag after a six-run first helped build a 9-0 lead by the third inning.
Leading 9-1 in the fourth, Tampa Bay was two runs shy of having the game called for the 10-run mercy rule. But East Lake, the District 12 champion, found its momentum in the fourth. Wesley Sargent slapped a bases-loaded double as East Lake closed the gap to 9-5.
In the bottom of the seventh, Sargent walked to put two runners on and Tyler Kellmann singled to cut the score to 9-7. Reliever Chris Rheinhart's first pitch was wild, putting runners on second and third with one out. William Fulmer laced a fastball into right to score Sargent, taking second when the throw went home.
With the winning run at second, Rheinhart struck out the next batter for the second out but then walked Sam Shaffer to load the bases. Facing a full count to Aaron Watson, Rheinhart saved the day with a strikeout to end the game.
Tampa Bay advances to the state tournament in Haines City starting Saturday.
MINOR SOFTBALL: After watching Palm Harbor put together an 11-run inning Monday for a comeback victory, Northside claimed the title in a rematch with a 3-1 victory.
Kristen McGrath went the distance for Northside, allowing one run on three hits.
Palm Harbor's Courtney Pavlock was equally impressive, escaping bases-loaded situations in the third and fifth, while giving up seven hits and four walks.
But singles from Sarah Elgar, Kristen McGrath and Megan McGrath pushed across two runs in the first, enough to send Northside to the state tournament.