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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.
The 2007 baseball season ended with a huge thud, or more appropriately, a long series of pings. In fact, we think Orlando Bishop Moore just scored ...again. Next week, Bishop Moore plays in the state final four in Sarasota, and the county's best baseball players will begin preparing for college and Little League and American Legion. The Pasco Pirates, 16-1 losers Wednesday night, went farther than anyone expected. Dominated local competition. Had enough good pitching and hitting to make up two good baseball teams. Then, one bad night and just like that it was over. Ping! Here's a recap of some of the season's best moments, shared by Times staff writer John C. Cotey:
Top 5 stories
1. Pirates roll!
They (meaning everyone in Dade City who was there) still talk about that preseason tournament in Avon Park when Pasco stunk it up so badly coach Ricky Giles wanted to cancel the season. "Usually, you see something in those games, even if you lose. I didn't see nothing. It was bad." Turns out his players were just playing possum, making it within a game of state.
2. Larry Beets
A 500th win and a bobblehead? It's all downhill from here.
3. Call to arms
Zephyrhills' Geoff Parker, Ridgewood's Ben Koenigsfeld, Land O'Lakes' Matt Smith, Pasco's Dustin Brown and Aaron Brandt ...who knew the county had so much pitching?
4. Hey, take it easy there, Coach
Brandt threw 147 pitches against Zephyrhills, drawing a collective "Holy Cow!" from every coach in the county and quite a few parents. Giles took his foot off the pedal after that, though, and was truly disappointed about what had happened. Whenever he was asked about a pitcher's performance, he always started it with, "Well, he threw 70-75 pitches..., " kind of sad-like.
5. Sleeping giant
Bishop McLaughlin added a handful of solid players before the 2007 season, is sure to get a few more for next year and has a good coach in Nick Rodriguez. A private school power is lurking.
Top 5 games I saw
1. Ridgewood 7, Parkway Central 1
Larry Beets Bobblehead Night. Couldn't tell you what happened on the field - I hear Ridgewood won - but the atmosphere was electric. A packed house. People lining the fences. A sea of blue and orange. Yeah, I know, every game can't be like this, but every team should make sure they put at least one extravaganza like this together because it showed what high school sports could be.
2. Pasco 8, Zephyrhills 7
The story was Parker vs. Brandt, but only for a few innings. Then it became the back-and-forth battle between the offenses, with the Bulldogs taking a 3-0 lead, falling behind 7-3, rallying to tie at 7 in the top of the seventh, then losing in the bottom of the eighth.
3. Pasco 2, Nature Coast 1
Dustin Brown threw six hitless innings after getting knocked around in the first, and Jake Schrader doubled in the winner in the top of the seventh of this big district tilt.
4. Ridgewood 5, River Ridge 0
I'm not going to lie, the crowd was a little disappointing. Really disappointing, in fact. But hey, Ben Koenigsfeld was brilliant and Beets got his 500th win, nicely setting up Bobblehead Night.
5. Land O'Lakes 7, Ridgewood 4
The big pitching matchup between Koenigsfeld and Matt Smith fizzled, but in the bottom of the seventh, Ridgewood walked Anthony Santa to get to Smith. Bad move: he hit a walk-off three-run homer to win it.
Top 5 games I wish I had seen
1. Pasco 4, Zephyrhills 3
We had a reporter there, but mere words will never make up for not seeing back-to-back home runs by Trevor Hobbs and Jake Schrader in the last inning off the county's best pitcher to win it.
2. Newsome 4, Land O'Lakes 3
Had I known this playoff game would go 12 innings, I could have scooted over after watching Pasco make quick work of St. Cloud. Instead, I settled for play-by-play over the phone from our writer who was there.
3. Bloomingdale 1, Ridgewood 0
The Bulls scouted Ridgewood's drubbing at the hands of Land O'Lakes in the district final and weren't impressed. At all. Not even a little, tiny teensy-weensy bit. But they needed a two-strike bunt to surprise the Rams in the seventh. Impressed now?
4. Nature Coast 10, Pasco 6
Had I seen the Pirates give up 10 runs, perhaps Wednesday's flameout against Bishop Moore would not have been so mentally scarring.
5. Wiregrass Ranch 5, Hudson 2
If there was ever a game to see a 1-19 team take on an 0-20 team, this was it as the Bulls earned their first and only win. Unfortunately, the game was initially rained out and rescheduled for a Saturday.
It's never too early: the first 2008 Super Six
The Pirates will return stud starters Dustin Brown and Aaron Brandt, and that alone gives them the best rotation in the county. Having shortstop Jake Schrader, outfielder Josh Johnson and cleanup Reyes Perez back ain't too bad either.
The Bulldogs pitching faded late, but Austin Adams and Tyler Guy have better days ahead of them. And for my money, Josh Jackson, Kenten Montbarren, Josh Debyah, Chris Fern and Adams are the best bunch of sophomores in the county. Now, if you can just forget the big, gaping hole left by Geoff Parker, all should be well.
The Mustangs were really quite good by the end of the season and lose just one senior. Pitchers Matt Hewitt and Patrick Schuster will compete with the Pasco duo for the county's best 1-2 combo, and the Mustangs are just as deep as the Pirates in pitching. The bats were relatively silent in 2007, keeping us from putting them No. 2.
4. Land O'Lakes
The Gators will have a hard time replacing the Nos. 1-4 hitters in their lineup, especially Saint Leo-bound Anthony Santa and Matt Smith, also the team's pitching ace. But pitcher Matt Fuglesang should be one of the county's top 2-3 pitchers next year, and lefty Trey Dahl is primed for a breakout season.
Sophomores Mike Vivasis, Doug Burlett and Jay Mattos are a nice group to build around, but the success of the 2008 Rams will rest on whether they can find any pitching. Mattos never bounced back from an arm injury, but his development into an ace would be huge.
6. Bishop McLaughlin
If the Hurricanes beef up their schedule, and maybe trick one of the county's public schools into a regular-season game, they could start to make some serious noise in 2008. They return just about everyone and would be one of the top Class A teams in the state were they not moving up to 2A, a huge challenge for the upstart program.
5 things I would have done differently
Monday Morning quarterbacking is more fun with baseball.
1. I love Aaron Brandt, but I would have started Dustin Brown in the region final against Bishop Moore. Brandt even admitted he has been struggling the past few weeks with his curve.
2. That said, coach Ricky Giles hooked Brandt way too soon. Bishop Moore got its first three runs on an error and two groundballs, one that didn't get out of the infield and another that shouldn't have if the defense had been properly playing straight away. He only needed one more out, and I'd rather have taken my chances on him getting it and the team only being down 3-0 than losing all confidence when they saw the coach didn't have any. Giles changed pitchers so many times Wednesday that when his Pirates finally got a few hits, he walked to the mound to try and take out Bishop Moore's pitcher.
3. I understand Zephyrhills' Bruce Cimorelli starting Geoff Parker in the district quarterfinals against Springstead, but ...okay, fine, I don't get it. He was going to have to take a chance on struggling sophomore Austin Adams in the tournament at some point, so why not throw him at Springstead instead of against a good-hitting team that had beaten him twice? Just wondering.
4. Beets walked Anthony Santa to get to Matt Smith early in the season, and Smith homered to win a district game. Knowing what I know now, I would have walked Smith, too, and taken my chances with C.K. Flannigan.
5. If I could do it over again, I would have pushed 11-year-old Cole Manion to the ground and grabbed his bobblehead, running for the car. But I would not have pushed Shannon Eva down, because he was bigger than me.
5 players who surprised me
1. Matt Smith, Land O'Lakes Are you kidding me? This guy was maybe the county's best pitcher and arguably its most feared slugger. His walk-off homer beat Ridgewood, he went back-to-back with Anthony Santa twice in one game against River Ridge, and he homered twice in one inning against Hudson. And that outing against Newsome might have been the best in the county this season.
2. Trevor Hobbs and 3. Jake Schrader, Pasco The No. 9 and No. 1 hitter for the Pirates were deadly this season, both hitting near .500 and combining to single-handedly beat Zephyrhills twice and Nature Coast.
4. Justin Balk, Ridgewood Word was, the senior's presence was going to help give the Rams one of their top defensive outfields ever. But truth is, kid can hit, batting .344 and leading his team in runs (36) and steals (13).
5. Tyler Guy, Zephyrhills He came highly recommended, but a freshman power hitter? Those don't usually fare well. We expected two to three homers, but the Bulldogs rookie hammered seven and drove in 30.
5 players who didn't
1. Geoff Parker, Zephyrhills Better than advertised.
2. Ben Koenigsfeld, Ridgewood Lived up to Beets' expectations.
3. Zach Maggard, Pasco They said he was the best catcher around. They were right.
4. Sam Donataccio, Hudson Coach Vince Ferlita swore he was the real deal, so we believed him, and he hit over .500 and made all-conference.
5. Colena Lazar, Pasco Hey, how did she get on this list?
5 biggest regrets
1. Skipping Nature Coast's win over Pasco. Man, those Shark parents are mean. One more nyah-nyah-nyah e-mail and I would have had to change my address.
2. Eaten that eighth long john at Death Valley (or was it the fourth sandwich? Or 12th chicken wing?) Though Dale Maggard tested my Midwestern sensibilities and insisted the long, rectangular shaped pastry with frosting was a "breadstick" (next thing he'll be telling me is that bubblers are called "water fountains") each bite I took seemed to spark the Pirates offense. As a result, about the third inning Wednesday, Maggard tried to force me to eat a whole box.
3. Not seeing Mitchell play. Next year, if the newspaper is still around and not just being beamed to your cell phones or chips implanted in your heads, I'm covering a Mustangs game the first week of the season. Uh, now if someone can just remind me?
4. Not getting Pasco's Josh Schofield to fix my laptop before hanging up the phone with him after an interview.
5. Not pushing 11-year-old Cole Manion to the ground and grabbing his bobblehead, running for the car. Oh, wait, did I say that already?