Can't keep 'Canes off the field

Neither hip nor head injuries could keep Bishop McLaughlin from its first district title.

Published April 29, 2007

Catcher Rob Gallagher was barrelled over in the semifinals, a collision so fierce the runner was ejected and the Bishop McLaughlin senior was forced to leave with a hip pointer.

The next day, third baseman Brandon Markes was hit over the head with a flying bat at practice, an injury so frightening 911 was called and the Hurricane senior needed 15 stitches.

And the next day, both helpedtheir team to a first district championship, Gallagher catching all eight innings and Markes, hat carefully tilted to avoid the 5-inch row of stitches along his hairline, delivering key plays on offense and defense.

Which begs the question:

What exactly will it take to keep a Bishop McLaughlin baseball player off the field?

"For this group of seniors ... I don't know if there is anything, " said coach Nick Rodriguez.

While the county's traditional baseball powers - Pasco, Land O'Lakes and Ridgewood -- are going to the playoffs starting Tuesday, so is the new kid on the block, a Hurricanes team riding the crest of Bishop Mclaughlin's most successful year yet.

Bishop McLaughlin finally has a class of seniors, most three-sport athletes that have helped the Hurricanes to a winning season in football and the soccer postseason.

After two years of taking their lumps, the Hurricanes 17-6 now get to administer them.

"For our first year with seniors, this was a huge deal for us to win districts, " said Gallagher.

It became a reality partly because Gallagher was able to recover from his injury, which required a full day of ice before the game and heat treatment the day of, and partly because of Markes' determination.

Rodriguez said by the time he and four other seniors showed up at the hospital Wednesday to see how he was doing, Markes was talking about playing in Thursday's final.

"He said he was ready to go, " said Gallagher.

Regardless, Rodriguez had no plans to start Markes. But he showed up at school, got a clean CAT scan and the doctor's okay, and worked on his coach.

"I said, 'Can you even put a helmet on?' So he put a helmet on, " Rodriguez said. "He said, 'Let me warm-up and I'll tell you honestly if I can play or not.' "

Not surprisingly, Markes said he was ready, and Rodriguez reluctantly obliged.

First inning, Markes made what Rodriguez said was "an absolutely amazing play at third, backhanding a ball and throwing the guy out at first."

He made another sterling play in the field the next inning, and his bat was ringing all game.

With Chris Overbeck finishing off the game on the mound in relief, the Hurricanes were destined to eke out a win.

"It was a heck of a week, " the coach said. "No matter what happens now, I feel something special has happened with this team."

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

Fast Facts:



What: Class A region quarterfinal

Who: Tampa Baptist (9-13) at Bishop McLaughlin (17-6).

When: 4 p.m.

Need to know: Tampa Baptist started Bishop McLaughlin's late-season slide, scoring 13 runs in the first two innings and stealing 19 bases in a 15-9 victory in Tampa.