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Pasco baseball preview

All games at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted:.

By Times staff writers
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 2, 2003


Gulf Buccaneers.

COACH: Shaun Wiemer (21-37, 3rd season).

LAST SEASON: 6-20. Went 1-15 against county opponents with a young lineup.

KEY LOSSES: Dan Proctor, P; Sal Torre, C.

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Sean Collins, Sr., OF; Ryan Linville, Jr., SS/RHP; Corey Albrecht, Jr., RHP; Kevin Fagan, So., RHP/0 ; Andy Medina, So., LHP/CF.

OUTLOOK: Last season's youth (three sophomores and six freshmen on the field to end the season) could mature enough to make Gulf a team to watch this season, led by Fagan and Medina on the mound. Sophomore Blaise Simon, 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, is a hard thrower as well, and the Bucs should be dangerous on the basepaths. Wiemer gets a boost from junior Craig Soltys, a transfer from Albany, N.Y., who bats lefty and should be cleanup.

COACH SAYS: "We're the youngest team in the conference and district, by far. We don't have a lot of power, so we'll rely on speed and offensive execution and play small ball. Out of 13 players we'll have 12 coming back, and that's encouraging."

SCHEDULE: March: 4 -- at Tarpon Springs; 7 -- at River Ridge; 11 -- at Land O'Lakes; 14 -- vs. Mitchell; 18 -- vs. Ridgewood; 21 -- vs. Wesley Chapel; 25 -- vs. Hudson; 28 -- at Pasco. April: 1 -- at Zephyrhills; 2 -- at Springstead; 4 -- vs. Tarpon Springs; 8 -- vs. River Ridge; 10 -- at Hudson; 11 -- vs. Land O'Lakes; 15 -- at Mitchell; 18 -- at Ridgewood; 22 -- at Wesley Chapel.

* * *

Hudson Cobras

COACH: Jack Ledbetter (40-45, 4th season).

LAST SEASON: 20-9, won first district title and won first home playoff game in school history before losing in second round.

KEY LOSSES: Rob Petrucci, P/OF; David Leduc, 2B; Justin Razey, 0 .

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Bryan Strawser, Sr., RHP; Kenny Eva, Sr., 3B/P; Jimmy Clougher, Sr., SS; Jared Lorentzen, Sr., LF; Shannon Eva, So., LHP/RF; Eric Bergan, Jr., C.

OUTLOOK: Even without Petrucci, Hudson has a strong 1-2 in Strawser, who went 7-3 last season, and Shannon Eva, who won four games as a freshman. Speed is a strength, with four of the county's top five returning players in stolen bases, led by Clougher (13 steals last season) and Strawser (12). Much of last season's lineup is back, with senior Travis Simpson taking over for Leduc at second. Look out for sophomore Tommy Snow, the team's fastest player who also will pitch some.

COACH SAYS: "We've got two proven winners on the mound, and we should be deep in pitching. We've got pretty good team speed, and I expect us to challenge people there."

SCHEDULE: March: 4 -- vs. Pasco; 7 -- vs. Zephyrhills; 11 -- vs. Gulf; 13 -- at Springstead; 6:30 p.m.; 14 -- vs. River Ridge; 18 -- at Tarpon Springs; 21 -- vs. Mitchell; 25 -- at Ridgewood; 28 -- at Wesley Chapel. April: 1 -- vs. Hudson; 3 -- vs. Mitchell; 4 -- at Pasco; 8 -- at Zephyrhills; 10 -- vs. Ridgewood; 11 -- at Gulf; 15 -- at River Ridge; 18 -- vs. Tarpon Springs; 22 -- vs. Springstead; 23 -- vs. Central; 24 -- at Hernando, 6:30.

* * *

Land O'Lakes Gators

COACH: Calvin Baisley (253-240, 19th season).

LAST SEASON: 11-14, lost in first round of district tournament.

KEY LOSSES: Philip Whitten, RHP; Robbie Alvarez, C.

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Brandon Vari, Sr., 0 /LF; Michael Garcia, Sr., 2B; Chris Majowicz, Sr., CF; Trae Martin, Sr., 3B.

OUTLOOK: Whitten's graduation leaves the Gators without a dominant pitcher, but look for a deep staff to share the duties. Senior Ryan Nalls and junior Jonathan Zunz, both right-handers, will throw, as will senior lefty Adam Holland. Freshmen Jeff Bloomer and 6-foot-6 Caz Piurowski also can help, and Piurowski might play first base. Taking over at catcher is junior Jason Carter, a transfer from Chamberlain, and junior shortstop Louis Pena anchors the infield.

COACH SAYS: "My biggest area of concern is how consistently we'll play defense. Our pitchers are going to throw strikes, but the key to our season is how well we catch the ball. There's a lot of pieces to this puzzle we haven't put together yet."

SCHEDULE: March: 4 -- vs. Pasco; 7 -- vs. Zephyrhills; 11 -- vs. Gulf; 13 -- at Springstead, 6:30 p.m.; 14 -- vs. River Ridge; 18 -- at Tarpon Springs; 21 -- vs. Mitchell; 25 -- at Ridgewood; 28 -- at Wesley Chapel. April: 1 -- vs. Hudson; 3 -- vs. Mitchell; 4 -- at Pasco; 8 -- at Zephyrhills; 10 -- vs. Ridgewood; 11 -- at Gulf; 15 -- at River Ridge; 18 -- vs. Tarpon Springs; 22 -- vs. Springstead; 23 -- vs. Central; 24 -- at Hernando, 6:30 p.m.

* * *

Mitchell Mustangs

COACH: Phil Bell (14-44, 3rd season).

LAST SEASON: 11-18, lost in first rounds of districts but improved much after three wins in program's first season.

KEY LOSSES: Leo Loiacano, C; David Coyle, OF; Matt Tate, C/OF.

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Tyler Clippard, Sr., RHP; Brian Sommer, Sr., C; Derek Shortz, Sr., 3B; Jayson Farnum, Sr., CF; Ed Garton, Sr., 2B.

OUTLOOK: Clippard, whose 1.18 ERA ranked second in the county last season as he struck out 99 batters, is the kind of pitcher that can carry a team to the playoffs. The USF signee has a new but capable batterymate in Sommer, a University of Tampa signee moving in from the outfield. The challenge is in replacing three key hitters -- Bell expects big things from Garton and Shortz, and junior righty Mike Reed should step in as the No. 2 starter.

COACH SAYS: "When we got here and opened school three years ago, we hoped by the end of the third year that the club would be a .500 team. We were close to that last year, lost a lot of one-run games, and even now we're not where we're going to be at the end of the year. It's going to come down to our effort and attitude."

SCHEDULE: March: 4 -- at Hudson; 7 -- at Pasco; 11 -- vs. Zephyrhills; 12 -- at Central, 6:30 p.m.; 14 -- at Gulf; 18 -- vs. River Ridge; 21 -- at Land O'Lakes; 22 -- vs. Tarpon Springs, 1 p.m.; 26 -- at Lecanto, 6 p.m.; 28 -- vs. Ridgewood. April: 1 -- vs. Wesley Chapel; 3 -- vs. Land O'Lakes; 4 -- vs. Hudson; 8 -- vs. Pasco; 11 -- at Zephyrhills; 15 -- vs. Gulf; 16 -- at Tarpon Springs; 18 -- at River Ridge; 22 -- at Crystal River, 6:30 p.m.; 24 -- at Jesuit.

* * *

Pasco Pirates

COACH: Ricky Giles (160-91, 10th season).

LAST SEASON: 23-6, dominated in regular season but lost in district championship and in first round of playoffs at Jesuit.

KEY LOSSES: Lee Cruz, SS; Anton Standifer, OF; Orlando Rosales, OF.

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Chris Nyman, Sr., LHP/LF; Matt Prowant, Sr., LHP/CF/0 ; Matt Smith, Sr., RHP/SS. Sonny Glover, Jr., RHP/2B.

OUTLOOK: Standifer, Cruz and Rosales, who finished with the county's top three batting averages and combined for 19 home runs, are gone, so the challenge is in reloading the top of the batting order. Leading off will be Glover, who earned all-conference honors as a freshman at Wesley Chapel and spent last season at a Seventh-Day Adventist school in Zephyrhills. Prowant and Nyman will bat second and third, with catcher Juan Lopez batting cleanup. The strength will be pitching, but expect the Pirates to score plenty of runs.

COACH SAYS: "I thought we lost a lot of bats, but I think we're playing better defense and the pitching is a bit smarter."

SCHEDULE: March: 4 -- at Land O'Lakes; 6 -- vs. Zephyrhills; 7 -- vs. Mitchell; 11 -- vs. Ridgewood; 13 -- at Zephyrhills, 4:30 p.m.; 18 -- vs. Hudson; 27 -- vs. Wesley Chapel; 28 -- vs. Gulf. April 1 -- vs. River Ridge; 4 -- vs. Land O'Lakes; 8 -- at Mitchell; 11 -- at Ridgewood; 15 -- at Wesley Chapel; 18 -- at Hudson.

* * *

Ridgewood Rams

COACH: Larry Beets (331-233, 20th season).

LAST SEASON: 27-8, making resilient playoff run and advancing to Class 4A championship game, where Rams lost 13-0 to Jacksonville Bishop Kenny.

KEY LOSSES: Ronny Lowe, P; Richie Hittel, P/SS.

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Monte Werner, Sr., OF; Danny Lotz, Sr., 0 ; Aaron McLamar, Jr., 3B; Josh Le'Roy, Jr., C/OF; John Servidio, Jr., 2B/RF.

OUTLOOK: Gone are the two pitchers who led the Rams to last season's state championship game, but Hittel is the only bat missing from last season's lineup. Senior Pat Potter, who sat out last season, will bat second and play rightfield, while sophomore standout Jon Koenigsfeld will move in to play second base. The pitching staff, led by senior right-hander Matt Laliberte, is untested and perhaps the only potential obstacle in the way of another deep playoff run.

COACH SAYS: "It's going to be even more pressure for the ones who had good years last year, to make sure they're not thinking it's easy. You still have to work hard every day."

SCHEDULE: March: 4 -- at Wesley Chapel; 6 -- at East Lake; 4 p.m.; 7 -- at Hudson; 11 -- at Pasco; 14 -- at Zephyrhills; 15 -- Alumni Game, 2 p.m.; 18 -- at Gulf; 21 -- vs. River Ridge; 25 -- vs. Land O'Lakes; 27 -- Parkway Central; 28 -- at Mitchell. April: 1 -- vs. Tarpon Springs; 3 -- at River Ridge; 4 -- vs. Wesley Chapel; 8 -- vs. Hudson; 10 -- at Land O'Lakes; 11 -- vs. Pasco; 15 -- vs. Zephyrhills; 18 -- vs. Gulf; 23 -- at Hernando, 6:30 p.m.; 24 -- vs. East Lake.

* * *

River Ridge Royal Knights

COACH: Jack Homko (118-171, 12th season).

LAST SEASON: 13-14, lost on home field in first round of district tournament.

KEY LOSSES: Brandon Dellechiaie, RHP/0 ; Matt Chaple, CF/RP.

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Doug Kneib, Sr., SS; Jeff Durso, Sr., LF; Justin Roth, Sr., LHP; Brandon Hall, Sr., CF.

OVERVIEW: Homko is hoping a strong group of seven seniors can lead this team, which returns two potent bats in Kneib (.368, 5 HRs) and Durso (.354, 17 RBIs). Jesse Grossman and Chris Dwyer move to the top of the lineup, and among the new faces is junior first baseman Kevin Kuryliw, a transfer from Ridgewood whose brother, Derek, was county Player of the Year two years ago.

COACH SAYS: "We're only as good as the whole team plays. I don't have one individual who can carry this team, so we need to stick together as a group."

SCHEDULE: March: 4 -- vs. Zephyrhills; 7 -- vs. Gulf; 11 -- vs. Tarpon Springs; 13 -- at Hudson; 14 -- at Land O'Lakes; 18 -- at Mitchell; 21 -- at Ridgewood; 22-28 -- at Dunedin Tournament. April: 1 -- at Pasco; 3 -- vs. Ridgewood; 4 -- at Zephyrhills; 8 -- at Gulf; 11 -- at Tarpon Springs; 15 -- vs. Land O'Lakes; 18 -- vs. Mitchell; 23 -- at Wesley Chapel; 25 -- vs. Wesley Chapel.

* * *

Wesley Chapel Wildcats

COACH: Steve Mumaw (12-73, 4th season).

LAST SEASON: 6-23.

KEY LOSSES: Scott Orr, SS; Randy Hickle, C; Justin Wortley, 0 ; Tommy Young, 3B.

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Mike Timpone, So., INF/P; Kevin Holmes, Jr., LHP; Anthony Rawson, So., CF.

OVERVIEW: The emphasis is on youth, with a strong freshman class that could help get the Wildcats over the initial hump they've struggled with. Holmes had more strikeouts than innings last season, and Timpone showed promise as a freshman. Rawson, who played quarterback in football season, is rangy and a threat on the basepaths.

COACH SAYS: "We've got a lot coming back, and some good new players. They're all competing so good in practice, I don't know what our lineup will be yet. I'm really excited though, and I think we're going to make some strides."

SCHEDULE: March: 4 -- vs. Ridgewood; 6 -- vs. Mulberry; 11 -- at Hudson; 13 -- at Bartow; 18 -- at Zephyrhills; 21 -- at Gulf; 27 -- at Pasco; 28 -- at Land O'Lakes. April: 1 -- at Mitchell; 3 -- vs. Zephyrhills; 4 -- at Ridgewood; 8 -- vs. Springstead; 10 -- at Mulberry; 11 -- vs. Hudson; 15 -- vs. Pasco; 17 -- vs. Bartow; 22 -- vs. Gulf; 23 -- vs. River Ridge; 25 -- at River Ridge.

* * *

Zephyrhills Bulldogs

COACH: Bruce Cimorelli (97-83, 7th season).

LAST SEASON: 8-21, lost in district semifinals to Pasco.

KEY LOSSES: Kyle Watson, 0 ; Aaron Young, CF; Mark Dunn, RHP; Justin Markese, C.

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Joe Duffau, Jr., LHP/LF; Byron Stephens, Sr., SS/RHP; Kris Gutierrez, Sr., 2B/C; Jake Cimorelli, Jr., DH.

OUTLOOK: Offseason shoulder problems will keep Cimorelli from pitching this season, so Stephens will be the No. 2 pitcher behind the promising Duffau. Several freshmen could make an impact, including Trey Anderton, a lefty on the mound and starter at first base; Brett Ross, who takes over at catcher, and middle infielder Spencer Pahr, whose brother, Eric, is a senior pitcher. Zephyrhills hasn't been this young since coach Cimorelli's first season, and when those freshmen became seniors they reached the state tournament at Legends Field.

COACH SAYS: "We're not real deep in terms of baseball players, and we're probably going to struggle because we're young, but they're good coachable kids, a pleasure to be around."

SCHEDULE: March: 4 -- at River Ridge; 6 -- at Pasco; 7 -- at Land O'Lakes; 11 -- at Mitchell; 13 -- at Mulberry; 14 -- vs. Ridgewood; 18 -- vs. Wesley Chapel; 20 -- vs. Bartow; 21 -- vs. Hudson; 29 -- vs. Pasco, 4:30 p.m.; 27 -- at Springstead. April: 1 -- vs. Gulf; 3 -- vs. Wesley Chapel; 4 -- vs. River Ridge; 7 -- vs. Lake Gibson; 8 -- vs. Land O'Lakes; 10 -- at Bartow; 11 -- vs. Mitchell; 14 -- at Ridgewood; 17 -- vs. Mulberry; 22 at Hudson.

-- Compiled by Greg Auman and Jamal Thalji.

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