Spring cheat sheet

Published April 10, 2007

Spring break is over and it's time to get serious. So we've cleaned off our desks, sharpened our pencils and sketched out our postseason plans. Here's a peak into the war room of our Central Pasco office where the debates were long and intense, but ultimately revealed teams to watch in the postseason.

Down the stretch

Tonight, the Sunshine Athletic Conference champion should be crowned when Land O'Lakes visits Pasco.

The Gators lost to the Pirates 10-0 the first time around, their only SAC loss, but can redeem themselves. Pasco hasn't lost to a county team this season. Both teams are coming off a hard week of tournament action.

For Pasco, it doesn't get much easier, because they still have to nail down the No. 1 seed in the district tournament Friday against Nature Coast, which they beat 2-1 previously in a hard-fought battle.

Surprises lurking?

River Ridge and Gulf haven't figured out how to mix good pitching with good hitting on the same night and have failed to live up to expectations.

The Royal Knights (8-8) have six games remaining to get it right, including contests against Land O'Lakes (Friday) and Zephyrhills (April 17). The Bucs may have to pray for a district tourney surprise to salvage the season.

Tough picks

This could be the toughest year to choose the county's best player in recent memory.

Geoff Parker (Zephyrhills), Matt Smith (Land O'Lakes), Zach Maggard (Pasco) and Ben Koenigsfeld (Ridgewood) have all made strong cases, but there's no leader in the clubhouse.

Districts and beyond

Land O'Lakes has the pitching to make a playoff run, but will the bats show up consistently? Ridgewood may not have the 1-2 pitching punch to get far, though the Rams have yet to hit their stride offensively. Which leaves us with Pasco. The Pirates have a tough district, and are 3-0 against Zephyrhills and Nature Coast, but all the wins have been by a single run won in their last at-bat. And No. 1 Bishop Moore, unbeaten at 19-0, lurks in the region.

As good as we thought

Boys: Led by the county's most dominant player, sophomore Tyler Brown (10-0), Wesley Chapel is 8-2, losing only to Ridgewood (12-0) and River Ridge (12-1).

Girls: Last season was no fluke. Led by coach Doug Howery, River Ridge is 12-1 record, losing only to Central. Seems as though River Ridge will be going for the three-peat for district title.

Surprises lurking?

Boys: Where did Ridgewood come from? The Rams were just 5-9 in 2006, and coach Mike Bua said he can't believe his team might have an undefeated season.

Girls: Look who has a tennis team. That's right, Pasco does. After going 2-42 in its past three seasons, the Pirates are stunning the county with a 6-8 record, which includes a 4-3 upset of Wesley Chapel on March 20. With a young core of players, such as No. 5 sophomore Ally Tisdale (12-0), the Pirates could be a force to reckon with in the future.

Down the stretch

Boys: River Ridge and Ridgewood duke it out today. This is the second time the teams have meet this season (Rams won 4-3 on March 13), and the winner of today's match should come out on top in the district seedings. Also, Wesley Chapel's Brown should take the No. 1 singles district title and make his first appearance at state.

Girls: Pasco should get postseason wins, and Wesley Chapel should step up in districts. Keep an eye on the Royal Knights' Kristen Greenup, the junior leader of the county's hottest girls team.

Districts and beyond

Boys: Gulf's Tyler Hubbard should find his way to state for the second straight season, and Ridgewood, River Ridge and Wesley Chapel will be neck-and-neck in districts.

The Rams should come out on top for their first district title.

Girls: Wesley Chapel (3-9) is having a down year but will try to play the spoiler in districts. Enter Central, which could knock off River Ridge for the title.

Ones to watch

Boys: Ridgewood's Sean Little (11-1) meets his good friend, River Ridge's Lucas Loman (7-6), for the third time this season in districts. Saddlebrook (8-2) should take its Class A, District 9 title, since the team's only losses have come to 2006 state title winner Bradenton Prep.

Girls: Wesley Chapel's Yumi Hasegawa (12-0) should make another deep run at state.

In 2006, the senior advanced to the Class 3A semifinals, falling to eventual overall champion, Lakeland George Jenkins' Monica Arguello.

Times correspondent Mike Camunas contributed to this report.

Down the stretch

Wesley Chapel has been the most dominant program this season, and the girls teams have emerged as the strong unit. They routed the field at the SAC and have No. 1 potential in several events, and the depth as well. The Wildcat boys were caught by Land O'Lakes at the SAC meet and will need to refocus to make a district splash. The Gators have legitimate district and region forces in the distance events and pole vault, and will look again to relegate Wesley Chapel to runnerup. Pasco and Zephyrhills will head off on their own, running into tough squads from Tampa and Brooksville in district action.

Surprises lurking?

The Ridgewood girls, should they get healthy, may not have the numbers to beat Wesley Chapel but can put a dent in the Wildcats at the district and region levels.

Tough picks

While Zephyrhills' Sederrik Cunningham and Land O'Lakes' Felix Soto have been the most consistently dominant forces on the boys side, the best girl is a tossup between Wesley Chapel's Patience Shackley or Jasmine Pleasant, Mitchell's Latoya Hillmon or Ridgewood's Dalia Madison.

Districts and beyond

Cunningham's speed in the 100 and 200 should translate into a state appearance if he can start shaving off tenths of a second, starting with Thursday's district meet. Soto's potential is untapped because he has yet to be tested. Wesley Chapel's Arisa Bush has the eighth-best discus throw (125-8) in the state.

Down the stretch

At 17-3, the Pirates arguably are the county's top team with a 14-game win streak and enough talent and power to play with anyone. Colena Lazar, Brianne Farmer, Lucy Schneider ...the list of talent goes on and on. Pasco, however, isn't invincible. Its three losses were close - two one-run losses to Hernando and River Ridge and an 8-6 loss to Mitchell. The real question: Can Pasco stay hot after a 17-day layoff?

River Ridge and Mitchell have been blessed with good hitting and pitching.

The Mustangs won the SAC and can boast an undefeated conference season with a win at home tonight at 7 against River Ridge.

Surprises lurking?

Gulf has been the late-season surprise, rebounding from a 5-5 start to go 16-6 with a seven-game win streak.

The Bucs were troubled early, but have rebounded for big wins against Land O'Lakes, River Ridge and Zephyrhills.

And the Gators have dropped a couple of close games, but should have plenty of power thanks to players such as Sam Adamo, Alexis Aubuchon, Lauren Smith and Michelle Bradley.

Tough picks

Zephyrhills has struggled to win big games as a young lineup takes it lumps.

Still, you can't count out the Bulldogs with star Jessica Davis and the strong pitching of Andrea Durrett (6-1).

Maybe next season

Academy at the Lakes is enjoying a stellar season at 16-2 thanks in great part to shortstop Brittney Scott and pitcher Amber Hay.

Unfortunately, the Wildcats are an independent team and are not eligible for postseason play.

Districts and beyond

Pasco seems to be the only postseason lock in Class 4A, District 8 as the No. 1 seed.

That said, Zephyrhills could sneak in as could surging Gulf. 5A-7 should send River Ridge and Land O'Lakes to state.

And despite Mitchell being the SAC champ, it might not make it out of a very tough 6A-7 tournament where it has suffered all six losses.