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Gaither still rough in the diamond

Baseball coach Frank Permuy said the team can make a post-season run if it can improve its hitting and infield defense.

By TERRY JONES
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 18, 2003


NORTHDALE -- As the baseball season nears its end, Frank Permuy has started to reevaluate his team in preparation for the district tournament, which begins April 28. It's been a late-season ritual for the Gaither coach for the past 19 years.

On occasion, he faces a low talent pool, sometimes the pool seems bottomless and once in awhile, he isn't certain. But whether the talent is high or low, he is always proud of his boys.

He celebrates with them when they win, and he hurts with them when they don't.

"Except for the Saladino tournament during spring break (last week of March), I don't think we have played a total game," Permuy said. "Our pitching has been the most consistent part of the team and our defense is solid, especially the outfield, but overall the team has not quite gotten everything all together yet. The good news is the team is talented and there is still time to peak for districts."

In the Tony Saladino Memorial Spring Baseball Tournament, the Cowboys put together six impressive wins against no losses and won.

For any baseball team, pitching plays a major roll and the Cowboys rotation wasn't expected to contribute much this year. They have no seniors in the top four of the rotation and their ace is a sophomore.

But the pitchers have been one of the pleasant surprises for the Cowboys.

As a freshman last year, Caleb Graham was third in the rotation. Now he is No. 1. He was named MVP of the Saladino tournament.

"Caleb plays with a lot of poise for a 15-year-old," Permuy said.

Junior Daniel Thomas holds the No. 2 spot in the rotation, and sophomore Ryan Plate is third. Junior Patrick House is a solid closer for the team.

The combined earned-run average for the pitching rotation, as of early this week, was 2.73.

Permuy ranks his outfield high because of its performance in Gaither's defense, its speed, consistency and hitting contribution. Making up the outfield is senior Ty Taborelli in center, junior Brendan Domaracki in right and sophomore Mario Duarte in left.

Permuy said Taborelli, the team's lead-off hitter, has signed with the University of South Florida. "Ty has a strong throwing arm, good bat and speed," Permuy said.

Tyler Ayres adds depth to the outfield.

Clint Kolschefsky, who joined the team this year after moving from Montana, is the designated hitter and backup catcher. Permuy says he finds ways to get on base.

Making up the infield are a group of seniors. Three-year starter Jason Baroff has a sure glove at first base and consistent bat.

Alex Bueno, considered one of the most improved players on the team by Permuy, plays second and is one of the top batters.

Chad Sumpter has been moved from behind the plate to third base to replace the injured Kristian Solis. He has become as consistent in the infield as he was behind the plate.

Kyle Gerberding is at shortstop.

Sophomore switch hitter Braudio Bardo has replaced Sumpter behind the plate.

A little improvement at the plate and in the infield will be needed for the Cowboys to make a serious challenge in the playoffs, but they are on the edge. Baseball in Hillsborough County is very competitive, and Gaither usually finds a way into the mix.

"We have a very good team that needs to reach a peak of consistency, between now and April 28," Permuy said.

"Our district is tough, but these guys are capable of making the finals and going on. Our hitting needs to improve and they can do that. If they play the way they did in the Saladino, they will be all right in the playoffs."

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