PCAC baseball championship

Published April 29, 2005

WHO: Clearwater (18-6) vs. St. Petersburg (19-2)

WHEN/WHERE: Tonight at 7, Brighthouse Networks Stadium, Clearwater

OUTLOOK: St. Petersburg has come on strong after being upset by Dixie Hollins in the semifinals of the Seminole Classic. Connecticut-bound Dale Brannon (6-2, 0.14 ERA) heads a pitching staff that includes fellow seniors Adam Recvlohe (7-0, two saves, 1.93 ERA) and Courtland Chambers (6-0, one save, 1.16 ERA). Brannon leads the offensive attack - team batting average is .320 - as well with his team-leading .475, with catcher Vince Grasso close behind at .432. The Green Devils have strung together 14 wins in a row since the loss to Dixie, including a 1-0 extra-innings victory over defending champion Seminole and Wednesday's 6-3 win over PCAC opponent Clearwater.

But do not discount the Tornadoes. Even if Clearwater coach Doug Banks can't recall the last time the school appeared in the final. "I know it's been a while, since at least before 1996," Banks said. Either way, the Tornadoes are a force to reckon with. Less than two weeks ago, the north champion beat perennial county favorite Seminole 5-0 on the road.n The senior-laden team has come a long way from two years ago when Banks took over. Two seasons ago, the Tornadoes finished 11-14, then followed with a 13-14 mark. Buying into the coach's philosophy of "the will being stronger than the skill," seniors Edmund Rakipi, Michael Ortega and Michael Booth have brought the Tornadoes back to respectability. Ortega (5-2, 2.20 ERA) and Booth (6-3, 1.24 ERA) are top pitchers who can definitely keep the Tornadoes in the game.