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The county's best don't look it in 11-6 game

By SCOTT PURKS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 12, 2003

SEFFNER -- Two of the county's top defensive teams, Sickles and Armwood, featuring two of the area's best pitchers, the Gryphon's Shane Buriff and the Hawk's Daniel Fox, squared off Tuesday afternoon.

So why did it turn out so ugly?

"Hard to figure," Armwood coach Joey Fernandez said. "I thought it was going to be a well-played game, finishing something like 2-1."

Way off.

Armwood won 11-6, and though upset with his team's four errors and sketchy pitching, Fernandez was at least happy with the victory.

"We found a way to win, and the good news is that we've been doing that all season," Fernandez said. "We've been fortunate."

Armwood improved to 5-1, and Fernandez said he believed the best was yet to come.

"We still haven't put it all together," he said.

Then there's Sickles, which started 5-0 before losing two of its past three, giving Gryphons coach Bob Pagano pause.

"I think sometimes when you get off to a fast start like that you get the impression that you are better than what you are," Pagano said. "You might start taking some little things for granted.

"You have to look in the mirror and say maybe you're not as good as you thought you were. ...

"We're going to start working a little harder and communicating a little better. We have to."

The trouble for Sickles started in the first inning, when the first three batters hit singles that led to two runs.

Just more than an inning later, Buriff was pulled and Armwood piled on four third-inning runs, giving the Hawks a 7-5 lead.

Injury was added to insult in the fourth when Gryphons shortstop Jeremy McNally was hit by a pitch on the left side of his rib cage and had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital.

School officials said paramedics confirmed McNally's vital signs were fine, but the concern was his rib cage.

"We hope he's okay," Pagano said. "He's one of our leaders and best players. ...

"It was a tough, tough day. Sure was."

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