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Pirates want to put emphasis on their defense

Pasco has lost some offensive power, but improved fielding and pitching might carry it over the hump.

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 2, 2003

DADE CITY -- In football the prevailing logic is that offense wins games and defense wins titles.

Pasco will test the theorem on the baseball field this season: A year after dominating locally with a stacked lineup but losing in the first round of the playoffs, the Pirates will try again, this time relying on three quality pitchers.

The county's top three hitters have graduated, but Pasco has lefties Chris Nyman and Matt Prowant and right-hander Matt Smith, perhaps three of the county's top five pitchers. And if the bats come together, Pasco could repeat as conference champion.

"This is the best staff we've had," said 10th-year coach Ricky Giles, more confident entering this season than he was before last year's 23-6 campaign. "I think we're better off right now. I think we'll play better defense, and the pitching is smarter, so now I think we can hold people down."

The three pitchers went a combined 20-4 last season with more than 200 strikeouts and could improve on those numbers. Smith has signed with Saint Leo, and Nyman and Prowant aren't far behind.

Nyman, whose 104 strikeouts ranked second in the county last season, throws a little bit of everything, with a nice breaking ball, good mix of speeds and the occasional knuckler.

Prowant, who will bat second and carried a .427 batting average last season, the county's top returning mark, has a strong curve to go with his fastball. He'll also play center, showing good range after four seasons with the Pirates soccer team. Smith, who will play shortstop when he's not pitching, might have the best arm of the lot with a fastball that reaches 88-89 mph.

"They're ready," Giles said. "We just have to get some hits now."

That wasn't a problem last season, when the Pirates scored so many runs they had seven players with 19 or more RBIs. Lee Cruz, Anton Standifer and Orlando Rosales, who combined for 122 hits as seniors, will be sorely missed, but Giles is working in a new cast atop the lineup.

Second baseman Sonny Glover, a transfer from private school who played for Wesley Chapel as a freshman, will lead off. Nyman and catcher Juan Lopez, who drove in 28 runs last season, will hit in the 3-4 slots. Even the bottom of the lineup should be strong, with Smith likely batting ninth, giving Giles a preleadoff hitter with speed.

Giles also finds encouragement in an improved defense, which he said could be the difference for the Pirates, who committed two errors in the final inning of their district championship loss to Bartow.

"We had all the bats, but we were error-prone," Giles said. "That took us out of a lot of things, and now ... we can come into a close ballgame and stay in it."

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