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Ace helps finish off East Lake's victory

By BRANDON WRIGHT
Published July 30, 2005


DUNEDIN - East Lake Juniors manager Manuel Franco's plan didn't quite work out like he hoped, but the result was what he was looking for.

East Lake used five pitchers in the opening game of the state tournament and slipped past Cocoa 2-0 on Friday at the Englebert Complex.

"I had hoped not to bring Kyle (Westwood) back in. But it was close, and we needed him," Franco said. "The bottom line was we got by a very tough team."

Franco planned on using seven pitchers for one inning apiece in order to have all of them available for today's doubleheader. Tournament rules say if a pitcher throws more than one inning in a game, he cannot pitch the next day.

Westwood, East Lake's ace, threw the first inning, and four other pitchers followed. But with only a 2-0 lead after five innings, Franco elected to play it safe and have Westwood pitch the sixth and seventh. Westwood now cannot pitch until Sunday, providing East Lake makes it through pool play.

"It was a tricky call," Franco said. "But (Cocoa) is a strong team and in our pool. So I wanted to take this one."

For awhile, Franco's strategy was on track.

Westwood and Ryan Hughes singled in the first to put runners on the corners before Marty Franco's groundout scored Hughes. East Lake's John Malke, who was hitless in the postseason coming in, led off the second with a triple to right-centerfield.

"(Malke) has been making good contact all summer, but he just hasn't got one to drop," Manuel Franco said.

"(Friday), it dropped in the perfect spot."

Malke made it 2-0 on a wild pitch. From there, Cocoa got only one runner past second and four hits for the game.

Today, East Lake plays Woodville at 10 a.m. and College Park at 1 p.m. at the Englebert Complex to complete pool play. The top two teams advance to Sunday's semifinals. The final also is Sunday, at 6 p.m. at Knology Park.

SENIOR BASEBALL: Northwest won its first game of the state tournament 5-4 over Crestview late Thursday in Fort Lauderdale. Northwest plays Jacksonville at 1 p.m. today.

Shawn Hinton and David Staton drove in two runs, and Keith Staton went the distance, allowing six hits and striking out 10.

MAJOR SOFTBALL: Even with a convincing win in its opening game of the Southern Region tournament in Gulfport, Bloomingdale's major softball team had little time to celebrate.

Bloomingdale beat Mountaineer, W.Va., 6-2 on Friday at Gulfport Little League, but the real test is today at 4 p.m. against McLean, Va., last year's World Series runnerup.

"We're going to have to swing the bats a lot better to win this thing," Bloomingdale coach Jeff Carter said.

Bloomingdale got a stellar performance from starter Jennifer Owens, whose no-hitter was broken up by a single up the middle with two outs in the sixth. That was the only blemish of her night, and she didn't give up an earned run while striking out seven.

"She did what she has been doing all summer," Carter said.

Owens also had two RBIs and scored a run. Catcher Nicci Hopps homered to dead centerfield in the third.

Times correspondent Thomas Simonetti contributed to this report.