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Out to sink Pirates

By JOHN COTEY
Published March 30, 2007


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Zephyrhills ace Geoff Parker says he doesn't read the paper - though he might make an exception if he's in it - but he knows this much just from listening to teammates and coaches that do: Enough with the Pasco stuff. Enough about the Pirate pitchers. Enough about the undefeated season, the state ranking, the whole No. 1-in-the-county thing.

"Coach will read us little bits and pieces of it," Parker said. "It inspires us."

Not to mention, slightly aggravates them as well.

This from a kid who lives in Dade City, just a one-hop throw from Death Valley.

Back on March 1, Parker and the Bulldogs had a chance to deliver a shot to the bow of the Pirate ship and squandered it. They blew a 3-0 lead, couldn't hold a 7-6 lead with four outs to go and lost in extra innings.

The Pirates shared a slice of their postgame pizza with Parker, then sailed on, now 16-0 and ranked No. 2 in the state. The Bulldogs were left to wonder.

Parker has thought about that game a lot since. How his arm never felt right that night, how his shoulder ached until he got it warmed up midway through, how the curveball didn't and the change-up seemed to be avoiding the plate. How much he'd like another shot.

Tonight, he gets it.

"Oh yeah ...I'm ready," Parker said.

Ready? Try more than.

Since that first Pasco game, Parker is playing "the best I've played in my whole high school career."

He is dominating opponents from the mound and the batter's box. He now leads the county in home runs with seven, and his ERA continues to shrink.

Parker says one of his coaches suggested making a minor adjustment in his hands, effectively shortening his swing.

The rest, as they say, is misery - for opposing pitchers.

But where he truly wants to excel tonight, where he needs to excel, is on the hill, the ball in his hand, his Little League buddies in the red and black - now enemies, at least for two hours - unable to hit him this time.

Parker is hungry for this game, hopeful of a win. It's something the FSU signee hasn't done in high school, at least not that he can remember. He'd rather not let his friends and former teammates have bragging rights, much less a few hits.

And let's face it, in this rivalry, there is still no sweeter victory than a victory over the other.

Parker is also fully aware that beating the Pirates is about a lot more than his own personal vindication.

It's about his role as a team leader, the big daddy of a very talented group of freshmen and sophomores that will make the Bulldogs a team to beat for years.

That youth may help explain this: In the Bulldogs' biggest games this season - against Pasco, Nature Coast, Land O'Lakes and Ridgewood - they are 0-4.

Three of those losses were by two runs or less. With the exception of a win over Lakeland's McKeel Academy, the Bulldogs don't have a single notch on their belt worth showing off.

"If we win, and I'm really hoping we do, would pick this team up a lot," Parker said. "It would be a huge boost to our morale."

The Bulldogs have entered a crucial stretch of their schedule, one that will likely determine if they are still a bunch of kids learning the high school game, or if they are ready to graduate to district contender status. After almost 20 games, the freshman/sophomore thing is no longer a workable excuse.

Thursday, they met a Key West team that has one of the state's top baseball programs. Tonight, it's Pasco. And Tuesday, they get another shot at Nature Coast, and a chance to erase a 3-2 loss Parker said "aggravated us."

"We've called team meetings for the past two weeks and that's all we've talked about. These are going to be big games."

They have tried not talk about tonight's game because they believe with Key West coming to town it was truly best to take it one game at a time.

The Conchs, though, are gone now.

Pasco is here.

Parker says he doesn't read the paper, but tonight if he has his way, he'll give himself a reason to pick one up Saturday.

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

Fast Facts:

 

Pasco (16-0) at Zephyrhills (11-4).

Time: 7 p.m.

Starters: Geoff Parker (6-1, 0.83 ERA) vs. Dustin Brown (5-0, 0.24 ERA)

 

Geoff Parker

Since an 8-7 loss to Pasco on March 1.

Games: 9

AB: 28

Hits: 13

Ave.: .464

HR: 5

RBIs: 15

Multi-hit games: 4.

Games pitched: 5

IP: 23.2

CG: 3

ER: 0

W: 4

Saves: 1

Ks: 35

Tonight: Pasco (16-0) at Zephyrhills (11-4).

Time: 7 p.m.

Starters: Geoff Parker (6-1, 0.83 ERA) vs. Dustin Brown (5-0, 0.24 ERA)

 

 

Geoff Parker

Since an 8-7 loss to Pasco on March 1.

 

Games: 9

AB: 28

Hits: 13

Ave.: .464

HR: 5

RBI: 15

Multi-hit games: 4.

Games pitched: 5

IP: 23.2

CG: 3

ER 0

W: 4

Saves: 1

Ks: 35

 

[Last modified March 29, 2007, 23:50:30]


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