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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.
14-0 fall to Countryside followed by win over Mitchell.
By SCOTT PURKS
Published March 15, 2007
TAMPA - Gaither was a proven commodity. It had a 12-1 record, winning the majority of its games rather handily, with its one loss 7-5 to state-ranked Winter Gardens.
So what the heck happened the other night at Countryside?
After five innings, the Cowboys loaded onto the bus with a 14-0 loss to a team it had defeated 1-0 earlier in the season.
"It was weird," Gaither coach Al Alcala said.
No, Gaither didn't throw its ace, Morgan Grove, who won the previous game between the Class 6A, District 7 rivals.
"I didn't want (Countryside) getting too comfortable with (Grove)," Alcala said. "If you see a pitcher enough times you can figure some things out. I wanted to leave at least a little mystery out there."
He knew his chances of winning that game slimmed without Grove on the mound, but he never imagined losing by, as he said, "two touchdowns."
Nonetheless, on Wednesday afternoon he was encouraged because Tuesday night the Cowboys came back to beat another tough district opponent, Mitchell 5-3.
"That was huge for us to come back and win after getting beat so bad," catcher Lauren Elgar said. "I think maybe we got so used to winning that we might have let our guard down.
"So getting beat like that might have helped in a way. Now we remember how much we hate to lose. I think it woke us up."
That could be bad news for opponents from here on out.
Gaither, especially when Grove (10-0, 0.73 ERA, six-pitch arsenal) is throwing, is capable of beating anyone, though the Cowboys were not ranked in this week's Class 6A state top 10. Countryside was ranked No. 10.
"I still have total confidence in this team," Alcala said.
And he emphasized "the whole team," not just Grove.
Gaither, he said, has it all, even defense, "though it may not have looked like it the other night at Countryside."
Seven Cowboys have hit at least one home run, and the team's batting average is .372.
Plus, they are doing it in a district loaded with good teams, including Countryside, Mitchell, Sickles and Alonso.
Brackets for the annual tournament have been set for March 23-24 at Brandon's JC Handly Park. From the looks of things, it appears Class 3A Academy of the Holy Names (10-1) has a shot to upset a bunch of bigger schools.
Opening round, March 23
Riverview vs. Academy of the Holy Names, noon
Brandon vs. Robinson, noon
Plant City vs. Freedom, noon
Plant vs. Newsome, 2 p.m.
Bloomingdale vs. Sickles, 2 p.m.
River Ridge vs. Durant, 2 p.m.
Venice vs. Wharton, 4 p.m.
Alonso vs. East Bay, 4 p.m.
Riverview/Academy winner vs. Brandon/Robinson winner, 6 p.m.
Plant City/Freedom winner vs. Plant/Newsome winner, 6 p.m.
Bloomingdale/Sickles winner vs. River Ridge/Durant winner, 8 p.m.
Venice/Wharton winner vs. Alonso/East Bay winner, 4 p.m.