State baseball semifinal
By JIM REESE
Published May 25, 2005
WHO: Gaither (25-5) vs. Cape Coral Mariner (26-3)
WHEN: 8 p.m. today
WHERE: Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota
THE SKINNY: After starting 18-1 Gaither dipped, losing four of its next five. Since then, however, the Cowboys have regrouped and won seven straight to earn the best record in school history. Gaither is hitting .303 as a team but its strength lies in excellent defense and pitching. As with any good team, they are extremely strong up the middle. Few teams can match the defensive skills of catcher Braulio Pardo, the range of middle infielders Gus Fernandez and Evan Ashley, and the speed and arm of centerfielder Mario Duarte. The quartet also boasts a collective batting average of .330. In one fewer game this year, Mariner has amassed 74 extra base hits to Gaither's 56 and has scored 195 runs to Gaither's 153. Gaither's pitchers must keep Mariner runners off the bases so power hitters Casey Coleman (.435, 28 RBIs) and Josh Upchurch (.470, 23 RBIs) can't drive them in. It will fall to Cowboy ace Caleb Graham (9-3, 1.16 ERA) to get past the Tritons. Coleman, 14-0 with a 1.64 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 77 innings, will likely oppose Graham. Sophomore hurler Chris Jones (8-0, 0.83 ERA) waits in the wings for Gaither. The game will mark both teams' initial visit to the final four. Gaither skipper Frank Permuy has a career mark of 530-238 (.690); Mariner coach Steve Larsen is 175-85 (.673)."This has been a great year for us," Permuy said. "We won the Saladino Tournament and we've won more games than any team in school history. To be able to take state would be a wonderful achievement for these guys."
Take I-75 south, exit at University Parkway. Go west on University to Tuttle. Turn left and head south on Tuttle. The stadium is on the right at the intersection of 12th and Tuttle.
Class 2A semifinals: Jacksonville Arlington Country Day (26-4) vs. Lakeland McKeel (20-9), 10 a.m.; Port St. Joe (25-4) vs. Miami Florida Christian (27-2), 1 p.m.
5A semifinals: Jacksonville Wolfson (24-6) vs. Davie Nova (25-1), 5 p.m.; Gaither (25-5) vs. Cape Coral Mariner (26-3), 8.
Class 2A championship, 4 p.m.; 5A championship, 7.
Class 6A semifinals: Palm Beach Gardens (24-6) vs. Pembroke Pines Flanagan (23-6), 10 a.m.; Orlando Boone (24-6) vs. Miami Killian (23-6), 5 p.m.
4A semifinals: Cantonment Tate (26-2) vs. Okeechobee (20-10), 1 p.m.; Ponte Vedra Beach Nease (24-6) vs. Winter Haven (26-3), 8.
Class 4A championship, 4 p.m.; 6A championship, 7.