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Baseball Hot Ticket

By JOHN C. COTEY
Published March 7, 2007


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Baseball Hot Ticket

Times staff writer John C. Cotey breaks down tonight's big matchup between Pasco and host Land O'Lakes. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.

John C. Cotey can be reached at johncotey@gmail.com or (727) 869-6261.

Why it's hot

There were two teams without losses heading into Tuesday and they play tonight. The Gators were 4-0 before Tuesday's matchup vs. Jesuit, with three of those wins by the 10-run rule. The other came Friday on Matt Smith's walk-off homer against Ridgewood. The Pirates were 6-0 entering Tuesday and are coming off a 10-0 win Friday over Nature Coast. Every time these teams have met in recent years, it has been a good game. Last year's home run derby between Gator Caz Piurowski and Pirate Robbie Shields only made it better. The Gators aren't sure who they're throwing, but it won't be Matt Fuglesang (pitched Tuesday) or Matt Smith (pitches Friday). The Pirates likely will go with Dustin Brown or Jacob Schrader.

Key matchup

It's between a pair of Sunshine State Conference signees: Land O'Lakes third baseman Anthony Santa (headed for Saint Leo) is the reigning county batting champ after hitting .479 last season to set a school record, and Pasco catcher Zach Maggard (Florida Southern bound), who is poised to dethrone the Gator. Both guys head up the top hitting teams in the county.

Why them?

Last year, when Santa came to bat against Pasco in Dade City, a fan heckled him: "Hey, Santa. You gonna bring us a bike for Christmas?" The next pitch, Santa went yard. "I was trotting home, stepped on the plate and asked the kid if a home run would be okay," Santa said, laughing. Of his 13 career homers, three came against the Pirates. As for Maggard, he is the highest rated prospect in the county. 'Nuff said.

[Last modified March 7, 2007, 01:33:31]


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Anthony Santa Land O' Lakes

Zach Maggard Pasco
Build 5-11, 160 pounds 6-0, 180 pounds
Nickname Sandman Maggs
Stats Four games, 6-for-13, seven runs, one homer, eight RBIs Six games, 11-for-20, nine runs, five doubles, two homers, 13 RBI, .550 batting average.
Favorite pros Alex Rodriguez Pudge Rodriguez, Mike Piazza
Pregame ritual Before the first pitch, always bows down and prays. None
Uniform quirk Saint Leo Wears nothing but Nike, just like his boy A-Rod. Wears No. 8 on the wristband of his left arm in honor of former classmate and softballer Jamie Endress, who died last year.
College Saint Leo Florida Southern
Why college choice "It's close to home, my brother (Jose) played there and coach Ricky Ware used to be my AAU coach when I was 13." "They were on me first and stayed on me and I can play right away. That's the right spot for me."
On his off days "Anything involving church recreation. I've gone to the Dominican Republic the last six years on a baseball mission." "I like to hunt and fish. My biggest (kill) was an elk I got in Colorado on a hunting trip."
Drives 2002 Toyota Camry 2004 Dodge Ram
Claim to fame Hit a grand slam off Pasco ace Dominic Brown his sophomore season; set Land O'Lakes record for batting average (.479) last year. Preseason Under Armour All-American; played in senior Little League World Series in Bangor, Maine, in 2004; picked by Reds to compete on team at a showcase event.
On tonight's game "I've always been excited to play against Pasco. You know they will always be one of the top teams around and you have to stay focused to knock them out inning by inning." "You always get excited about playing good teams, and they are always a good team."
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