tampabay.com

Erring Gators tumble

By JAMAL THALJI
Published May 7, 2005


HUDSON - It's the kind of game best forgotten, and Land O'Lakes coach Cal Baisley is pretty sure his kids will do just that for Tuesday's playoff game.

"They'll forget about it by Monday," he said. "They'll come out ready to play. We'll have our best pitcher on the mound."

But until then, Friday night's error-filled 9-2 loss to Clermont East Ridge in the district championship is going to sting.

The Gators' plan was to rest ace Jono Cornelius and hand closer Caz Piurowski his first start, hoping to get at least four innings out of the 6-foot-7 junior.

Only Baisley didn't plan on the bottom falling out of his defense, as the Knights jumped out to a 5-0 first-inning lead at Hudson.

More defensive miscues late kept Land O'Lakes from closing on the lead after East Ridge made it 9-0 in the fourth.

Typifying the Gators' night was the Knights' last two runs, scored because of a fly ball that dropped between center and right.

"It wasn't our pitching, it wasn't our offense," Baisley said. "We turned probably a 4-2, 5-2 game into a blowout because we played so bad defensively."

Piurowski's blast over second base set up Land O'Lakes' 2-run sixth, as Anthony Santa followed him to the plate and ripped a home run blast to left.

But by that time Piurowski (1-5) was already off the mound after allowing six hits, five earned runs and four walks in 11/3 innings.

East Ridge (20-7) won the first district title in its three-year history and will host Lakeland (20-6) in Tuesday's region quarterfinal opener. Land O'Lakes (16-10) will visit 5A-6 champion Lakeland George Jenkins (16-12).