Playoff games lost in the haze for a day

Wildfire-induced smoke  pushed prep teams indoors for practice and postponed postseason games.

By Joey Knight, Times Staff Writer
Published May 9, 2007

TAMPA - Nearly all of Tuesday's scheduled high school playoffs in the bay area went up in a wildfire-induced haze of smoke, but officials are hopeful the games can be rescheduled for today.

With most of west central Florida blanketed in the haze spawned by wildfires hundreds of miles to the north, local and state athletic officials postponed Tuesday's two state championship softball games in Plant City and most area region baseball contests.

Those games tentatively have been rescheduled for today, should the smoke begin clearing as meteorologists project.

Today's early games could hinge on when the smoke clears. Action at the state softball tournament at Plant City Stadium - air quality permitting - is set to resume at 10 a.m. with the Class A final. Pasco's 3A semifinal against Okeechobee still is set for 5 p.m.

"It's just a wait and see, " Florida High School Athletic Association spokesperson Robert Hernberger said. "I don't know if there's a drop-dead time to decide on today's contests, it's just a matter of waking up in the morning and seeing what the conditions are."

All postponed baseball playoff games involving local teams tentatively are set for today, most at their originally scheduled times. Clearwater Central Catholic's 3A region final against Fort Pierce John Carroll was the only local game played Tuesday.

"I was just out working on the field and my eyes started watering and I was coughing, " said Sarasota High baseball coach Clyde Metcalf, whose team was scheduled to host Alonso in a 5A region final Tuesday. "I thought, somebody with breathing troubles might have a real problem with this."

Meantime, public school football programs in Pasco and Hillsborough counties were ordered to hold spring practices indoors, while Pinellas athletic director Nick Grasso sent a letter urging county public schools to use their discretion when holding practices.

"We had to go off the (county) health department's recommendation for our (activities), " Hillsborough County athletic director Lanness Robinson said.

Athletic directors at two Hernando County schools - Springstead and Nature Coast Tech - said spring practices at their respective schools would go on as planned. Hernando High canceled its practice.

"I walked out this morning and took a breath and started coughing and said, 'What the heck is going on out here?' " Robinson football coach Mike DePue said. "This is terrible. Seriously, I think a kid with asthma would have a problem with this.

"I don't think we should blow this out of proportion, either. I think it's good to take a precautionary day, but let's continue to be smart about it. We don't want to go overboard and start canceling all these practices unless it's necessary."

Times staff writers Kellie Dixon, David Murphy, Bob Putnam and Scott Purks contributed to this report. Joey Knight can be reached at (813) 226-3350 or jknight@sptimes.com.


Baseball region finals

All games tonight

Class 6A

- Alonso (27-3) at Sarasota (26-3), 7:30

Class 5A

- Jefferson (15-10) at Venice (23-7), 7:30

- Newsome (22-8) at Bloomingdale (20-7), 7:30

Class 4A

- Sebring (25-4) at Jesuit (24-5), 7:30

- Orlando Bishop Moore at Pasco (26-3), 7

Class A

- Canterbury (22-5) at Sarasota Christian (18-6), 7

State softball

All games at Plant City Stadium

Class 6A

- Port Orange Spruce Creek (28-1) vs. Everglades (27-2), noon Friday

- Countryside (24-5) vs. Miami Palmetto (26-3), 2 p.m. Friday

Class 5A

- Chamberlain (28-2) vs. Pace (23-5), 5 p.m. Friday

- Newsome (23-5) vs. West Boca Raton (17-12), 7 p.m. Friday

Class 4A

at main stadium

- Pasco (26-4) vs. Okeechobee (25-3), 5 p.m. today

- Pensacola Escambia (26-5) vs. Lake Wales (22-6), 7 p.m. today

Class 3A

at main stadium

- Trinity Prep vs. Gulliver Prep, final, noon today

Class 2A

at auxiliary field

- Wewahitchka (23-5) vs. Mount Dora Bible (24-6), 2 p.m. today

- Mayo Lafayette (17-9) vs. Westminister Christian (21-8), noon today

Class A

at main stadium

- Southwest Florida Christian vs. Pine Castle Christian, final, 10 a.m. today