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Anticipated top matchup all set for the semifinals

Northeast trips up St. Petersburg 5-1 to ensure a meeting today with one of the county's other talented teams, longtime powerhouse Dunedin.

By JOHN C. COTEY
Published March 29, 2006


DUNEDIN - The championship game of the 37th annual Dunedin Spring Classic is Friday.

Just don't tell anyone from Northeast or Dunedin.

By winning Tuesday night, the Vikings and Falcons set up a huge semifinal showdown today at 5 p.m. at the Englebert Complex.

Northeast, the Times' No. 1 team in Pinellas County, will throw ace Josh Bowman against No. 2 Dunedin's Bryan Garcia in a game that many have had circled for a month.

"The day we got the bracket at practice, we looked at it and saw we'd get Dunedin in the third game," Northeast catcher Joey Tribou said. "That's the day I started looking forward to it."

Northeast did its part to ensure the game happened by beating St. Petersburg 5-1 Tuesday night behind sophomore right-hander Jacob Wilder. Despite taking a Gordon McLean lineshot off his glove in the first inning that he thought broke his hand, Wilder (6-0) was able to finish off the Green Devils with a five-hit, seven-strikeout performance.

The Green Devils countered with Aaron Tullo, who was handcuffed by a less-than-generous strike zone that led to five walks in the second inning - including two with the bases loaded to score the first Viking runs of the game - and 10 overall.

Nick Shaw had two hits and an RBI, and Austin Smith scored twice to pace Northeast.

Ranked No. 6 in the state Class 5A poll, Northeast is now 16-1. But the Vikings still feel a win over Dunedin, arguably the county's most storied program, is necessary to cement their place atop the county perch.

"This is the best game we can ask for," Shaw said.

While both coaches were careful not to overplay the importance of today's game, the row of Dunedin coaches and fans lined up along the fence behind home plate to watch Northeast's suggested that bragging rights are an awfully nice prize.

"They're scouting," Tribou said. "They're getting ready for us. And we'll be ready. Yeah, they're Dunedin, but we're not the Northeast of the past. It's 2006."

Dunedin trounced Pinellas Park 17-1 in its quarterfinal win, beating the same Patriots that nearly pulled off a shocker on Thursday before losing 1-0.

But in the rematch, Dunedin scored 10 runs in the fourth inning, smacked five doubles and four triples, and were led by Kevin Maloney's 4-for-4 night.

The Falcons, No. 9 in the state poll, are the defending champions of their tournament and coach Tom Hilbert said that gives his squad extra motivation.

As for proving that his team is still the one to beat in the county, he just smiles.

"We're looking forward to it," he said. "It should be a great game."

TODAY'S SEMIFINALS All games at Englebert Complex unless noted

Northeast vs. Dunedin, 5 p.m.

St. Petersburg Catholic vs. Pasco, 8 p.m.

LOSER'S BRACKET GAMES

Palm Harbor U. vs. Countryside, 4 p.m.

Pinellas Park vs. St. Petersburg, 5 p.m.

Wesley Chapel vs. Roosevelt, 7 p.m at Dunedin Stadium.

Clearwater vs. Clearwater Central Catholic, 8 p.m