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Elusive a year ago, state glory in Seminole's reach
By BRANDON WRIGHT
Published July 27, 2007
SEMINOLE - Mike Mann stood in the dugout in July 2006, helplessly watching a painful end to his Seminole Little League major baseball team's season.
Sidelined by a hairline fracture in his right wrist, Mann - Seminole's most complete player - watched his team lose a one-run lead with two outs in the final inning of the sectional championship against Dunedin, the team that eventually fell one step short of the World Series.
"I couldn't help my team," Mann said. "It hurt a lot."
Mann will have a chance to make last year's season-ending loss a distant memory when Seminole opens the state tournament today at 1 p.m. against Winter Park at Tallahassee's Canopy Oaks Community Park.
Having the team that reached 2006's Southeast Regional final on the ropes taught Seminole some important lessons. While the loss stung, the game also gave it confidence.
"We were so close from going to states ...just one more out," Corey Baptist said. "Then we saw how far Dunedin went and knew we could do it this year."
Baptist and Mann are two of the five players returning from last year's team that was so close to representing Section 7 in the state tournament. They also swing two of the bigger bats on a team full of them. Seminole hit 11 home runs in 15 sectional tournament innings, led by Brett Phillips' four, Baptist's three and Mann's two.
On the mound, Mann, who tossed a no-hitter in Sunday's sectional title game, is the unquestioned ace. Featuring a four-seam fastball that clocks in the low to mid 70s on the radar gun and a two-seamer that darts down toward a right-handed hitter's shoes, Mann will get the ball in today's opener.
Seminole also has a bevy of more-than-capable pitchers behind him. Five of the team's hurlers consistently register between 60-65 mph with each possessing another quality pitch.
"We don't have a No. 2 pitcher," coach Ira Berman said. "We have five of them."
Mix good team speed and solid defense into the equation and it's clear why Seminole has a confident swagger.
"No, I'm nervous at all about today's opener," Baptist said. "Just excited."
SENIOR BASEBALL: Seminole opens play in the senior state tournament tonight at 6 against Conway in Winter Garden. Seminole will wrap up pool play with a doubleheader Saturday. The top two teams from each pool advance to Sunday's semifinal with the final on Monday.