tampabay.com

Pace coach wants to shake off label

After Pace defeated Chamberlain 5-0, Pace coach Susan Williams talked for a good five minutes about how her team was considered an underdog, a fact she didn't necessarily feel was fair.

By SCOTT PURKS
Published May 12, 2007


PLANT CITY - After Pace defeated Chamberlain 5-0, Pace coach Susan Williams talked for a good five minutes about how her team was considered an underdog, a fact she didn't necessarily feel was fair.

"You know when people from the Panhandle come south for (state championships) they're always considered the underdog, " Williams said. "It seems to me that we've come down for a while now and competed pretty well. I think we've proven ourselves, but it doesn't seem to have sunk in.

"All I can say is that the underdogs are in (today's) state final and hopefully they'll win."

The past 22 years under Williams Pace has racked up a 453-169 record and made it to two state final fours (1999 and 2003), only to lose both times in the semifinals.

Chamberlain, meantime, has reached six state final fours, losing in the semifinals three times, the final once and capturing just one state title (in 2003).

SOMETHING (NOT) IN THE AIR: The smoke that filled the skies in Tampa never reached Plant City on Friday.

If it had, the Class 5A semifinals likely would have been postponed until today. Under that scenario, the Florida High School Athletic Association could have made the semifinal winners play twice today or meet in a Sunday final, FHSAA representative Robert Hernberger said.

Thankfully, the smoke stayed away.

"It's been gorgeous all day, " Hernberger said.

Well, most of the day, anyway.

At 5:59 p.m., the Chamberlain-Pace semifinal was delayed because of lightning in the area. Play resumed at 6:36.

THE WAITING GAME: Newsome's semifinal was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. but didn't start until 8:34 because the previous game ran long.

During the lengthy delay, the Wolves did their best to stay loose, getting up every now and then and jogging a little bit.

"The last thing you want to do is have the girls sit, " Newsome coach Jessi Kowal said.

ODDS AND ENDS: Chamberlain has lost in the state semifinals the past three seasons. The Chiefs scored a combined one run in those games (24 innings). ... No bay area team fared well in the tournament. A day after Pasco fell 7-0 in the state final to Lake Wales, Countryside lost 2-1 to Miami Palmetto. The Cougars (24-6), playing in their first state semifinal since their 2002 championship, appeared to let their excitement get to them. They had seven errors in the game.

Times correspondent Keith Niebuhr contributed to this report.