tampabay.com

Durant ace doesn't disappoint

By BRANDON WRIGHT
Published March 24, 2006


TAMPA - Durant pitcher Carmine Giardina left the first-base line following pregame introductions in the Cougars semifinal of the Tony Saladino Tournament against Wharton, leaping and bounding all the way to the dugout.

Perhaps tall buildings will be next.

Giardina fanned 16 Wildcats, equaling his strikeout total against Alonso on Saturday, and set the record for most strikeouts in the tournament (32) as the Cougars defeated Wharton 2-1 in eight innings Thursday night at the University of Tampa.

"I started (jumping around) before games and we started winning," Giardina said. "So I just kept doing it."

What Giardina has been doing this past week has been unprecedented in tournament history. The University of Texas signee set the single-game record for strikeouts against Alonso, then shattered the tournament record previously held by Chamberlain's Steve Howard (23) on Thursday.

"Carmine pitches at the high school level but does so with a collegiate or professional mentality," Durant coach Ron Fussell said.

Giardina gave up two hits, struck out the side twice and fanned two in an inning four times. The senior lefty threw 128 pitches and cramped up in the eighth inning but refused to come out as the game headed into extra innings.

"I was running on adrenaline, I was done," Giardina said. "I had the option to come out, but I just wanted the ball."

Durant (14-3) took a 1-0 lead in the fifth on two of Wharton's five errors. Josh Fussell reached on and error and came around to score when Chip Bowden's single went under centerfielder Andre Dawson's glove.

The Wildcats (10-7) tied it in the sixth when Ramses Gonzalez came around to score from first base after an errant pickoff throw by catcher Tom Savino. But Jeff Wright's sacrifice fly in the eighth inning scored Bowden, sending the Cougars into today's 8 p.m. championship game against Hillsborough.

Terriers thrash Bulls

TAMPA - Hillsborough's reputation as the best hitting team in the county is well deserved when you consider the Terriers average 9.5 runs a game.

But in Thursday's 6-0 victory over Bloomingdale in the semifinals, Hillsborough (17-2) showed it has the pitching and defense to match.

Hillsborough starter Matt Schurig (6-0) was efficiently dominant in his two-hit shutout. And the defense behind Schurig, despite committing two errors, made several difficult plays look routine.

"You hear so much about how good a club they are at the plate, but they made every play (in the field)," Bloomingdale coach K.B. Scull said. "We hit some hard groundballs, and they caught them."

Hillsborough got all the offense it would need in the first inning off Bloomingdale starter Eric Ginn (2-1). Alex Cook opened with a single and scored when Ginn walked three straight. After a fly out, Marco LaMonte walked to bring home a run, and Chris Ramirez's sacrifice fly brought Hillsborough's lead to 3-0 after one.

"I know I can throw balls down the middle and give up five runs because my team is going to score seven or eight," Schurig said. "It helps to have the defense and hitting we have. Our team is really put together well this year."

Michael Burgess hit a ball over the scoreboard in rightfield, a two-run shot in the second inning, extending Hillsborough's lead to 5-0. The Terriers added a run in the third on Ricky Acosta's RBI single.

"When Matt's pitching, if we get five (runs), we're okay," Hillsborough coach Pat Russo said.

- BRYAN BURNS, Times correspondent