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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Gaither pitcher Ryan Plate keeps King guessing while his offense is solid, leading the Cowboys to a 5-0 win and into the semifinals.
By SCOTT PURKS
Published March 25, 2005
TAMPA - He may be skinny with a fastball that tops out at 80 mph, and he just might be the nicest kid you've ever met.
But if you take him for granted, you're probably making a mistake.
Gaither's Ryan Plate (2-0) - all 6 feet 4, 160 pounds of him - can beat you.
Thursday morning at the University of Tampa, he beat King 5-0 with a mix of curves, changeups, and ahem, fastballs.
"The thing is," King coach Jim Macaluso said, "he locates all of those pitches real well; and when you get a high school pitcher who can throw a curve and change speeds and hit his spots, you have someone who can win a lot of games."
Win big ones as well. In his three-year Saladino career, Plate is 4-0, including two quarterfinal victories, his first as a sophomore and the second Thursday morning.
"I had a lot of confidence throwing (Thursday) because I know I have a great team behind me," Plate said. "I know they can field and I know they can hit. This team does a lot to make a pitcher comfortable."
Gaither (9-1 overall and 4-0 in the tournament) helped settle Plate in the second inning by getting a 1-0 lead, scoring on a single by Mario Duarte, followed by a two-base error and sacrifice fly by Greg Coffman.
The Cowboys added two runs each in the fifth and sixth innings, scoring again on a mix of errors and hits.
"We just made a few mistakes and then things started to unravel," Macaluso said. "Make a few mistakes against a team as good as Gaither and you can find yourself down pretty quick. And with their pitching and defense it's tough to come back."
King (6-5) threatened in the fifth inning only to have a runner gunned down at home on a throw from centerfield to catcher Braulio Pardo, who not only blocked the plate but put down a tag in a split second.
The run would have tied the score at 1. Instead, Gaither added to Plate's comfort zone by getting two in the bottom of the fifth.
In the end King finished with just four hits, all of which came after the fourth inning.
"I was never thinking about getting a no-hitter," Plate said. "It's not good to think about that anyway. I was focused on getting the "W.' Really, that's all that mattered."
Gaither moves onto today's semifinal against Brandon at 4 p.m. in great shape.
Today's starter likely will be left-hander Chris Jones, who hasn't thrown yet in the tournament. Then, if Gaither pulls off the victory, Cowboys ace Caleb Graham will get the start in Saturday's championship.
"We are blessed with a lot of arms," Gaither coach Frank Permuy said. "But that doesn't mean this thing is over either. We have a lot of work left to do.
"We'll just have to come out again (today) and see what happens."