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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.
TAMPA - Bragging rights. District positioning. State rankings.
This one had it all.
But Tuesday afternoon, that stuff took a backseat to the Plant Panthers. Simply put, this one was about Sallie Scudder, who until her death Sunday after a long battle with breast cancer, had been Plant's enthusiastic, well-respected coach. And well, it's safe to say Scudder would have been proud of Tuesday's result, a 2-0 win over No. 1-ranked Chamberlain.
"It really sunk in during the middle of the game," Plant outfielder J.P. Pelaez said of Scudder's death. "In that last inning, my eyes were watering."
The Panthers (8-1) wanted this one bad.
For Scudder. And for themselves.
It has been an up-and-down ride for the Panthers since finding out more than a year ago Scudder, a Plant High valedictorian in 1986 who returned to the school to coach and teach, was sick and would be in for the ultimate fight. The 37-year-old Scudder, despite her illness, coached through last season and into this one. And as recently as two weeks ago, she was barking out orders during practice from her spot in the press box.
"She always had sayings," said Pelaez, who drove in a run. "She'd always say, "That a baby, Pelaez.' That's what I'll always remember."
It felt strange not having Scudder out there. Even the opposing coach, Chamberlain's Bobby Diez, who arranged for a pregame moment of silence, thought so. "This would have been special for her," he said.
Plant's other RBI came from shortstop Katie Grimes, but pitcher Anne Pilger, who shut the Chiefs (9-1) down, arguably was the star. As a whole, the Panthers looked sharp. "(Scudder) always kept us focused," Grimes said.
When the game ended with a Pilger strikeout, Plant players high-fived. Most had smiles. One let out a holler. Another took a deep breath. The emotional pain is likely to remain for some time, but this one felt awfully good. And deep inside, each Panther knew one thing.