Conference title another feather for Rams' capBy GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 18, 2003
Ridgewood made it to the state championship game last spring, but this year's Rams already have achieved something last year's couldn't: a Sunshine Athletic Conference championship.
The Rams' win against Zephyrhills on Tuesday clinched their first conference crown in five years. Ridgewood takes a 13-2 record against county opponents into tonight's game against Gulf, with the closest challenger, Mitchell, already with four losses.
"This is the first one for the seniors," said coach Larry Beets, whose team missed last year's crown by a game behind Pasco.
The Pirates held the conference lead for much of the season, but a loss to Ridgewood last week came in a stretch that saw Pasco drop five of seven after a 12-2 start.
Another area in which the Rams are ahead of the Pirates is district seeding. Ridgewood has locked up a first-round bye as the top seed in Class 4A District 8, but Pasco entered Thursday night needing help to enter its tournament as the No.1 seed.
Pasco moved into first in the district with a win last week against Bartow but dropped to second Tuesday when Wesley Chapel pulled out a 6-2 upset. To get back in first, the Pirates needed help from those same Wildcats, who hosted Bartow on Thursday.
A Wesley Chapel win would have given Pasco the top seed, but the Wildcats had incentive of their own. A win would have made them the third seed in a five-team district, keeping them out of the play-in game between the bottom two seeds.
In the 4A-8 standings, only two more spots are left to be decided. Mitchell travels to River Ridge tonight knowing a win not only would sweep their closest rivals but give them the third seed in the district tournament. What's more, a Mustangs win would let them finish second in the conference, going from 5-11 last season to 12-4.
If River Ridge can win tonight and even the season series, the fifth-seeded Knights would draw the Mustangs again in the first round of the district tournament. Mitchell isn't taking it easy in the week before districts: next week it travels to Crystal River and Jesuit, ranked Nos.9 and 10, respectively, in this week's Class 3A state poll.
COLLEGES: Beets got a treat Wednesday watching Pasco-Hernando Community College beat St. Petersburg College. He saw former Ridgewood ace Ronny Lowe go 82/3 innings for the 6-4 win against the Suncoast Conference leaders, and another former Ram, Dave Hancox, come in for the last out with the bases loaded for his fourth save. ... PHCC freshman Lee Cruz, a Pasco grad, had two hits Wednesday to give him 69. With six games left, he's well within reach of Ken Edwards' single-season record of 76 in 1994. Land O'Lakes grad Victor Roldan is eight hits shy of John Halliday's career record of 127, set in 1997-98.
THIS AND THAT: From the Rare Outs Department, the next-to-last out in Tuesday's Land O'Lakes-River Ridge game came when Knights catcher Brian McKonly, attempting to bunt, was called out for making contact with the ball while he was out of the batter's box. Land O'Lakes held on for a 5-3 win, and River Ridge coach Jack Homko got the consolation of knowing the umpire had only made the call twice in his career. "You always look for it and say, 'Watch the feet, Blue,' and they actually called it this time," Homko said. ... Gulf's Andy Medina extended his hitting streak to 11 games entering Thursday, but there's a longer streak at River Ridge, where senior Doug Kneib has hit in 16 consecutive games. ... Hudson, led by Kenny Eva's county-best .520 average, has found its offense again. The Cobras, batting .321 as a team, have won three straight, including 17-run efforts against Gulf and Wesley Chapel.
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