Buel has to play 'Bear Ball' again
By BRANT JAMES
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001
BROOKSVILLE -- Some call it small ball. Purists call it scientific baseball -- that meticulous, heady brand of play heavy on strategy and luck and light on big hits.
Central coach Gary Buel has become a virtual master of it the past few seasons, using a dash of good pitching, a dab of good defense and strong fundamentals to win a district title and wrangle into two consecutive regional tournaments.
You'd think Buel -- whose 13-16 team advanced to regionals last year despite a .265 batting average and six total home runs -- would revel in what he's come to dub "Bear Ball."
"I'd love to have a team hit 50 homers," Buel said. "I'd love to have one guy with 15, one with 10 and another one with nine. I'd love to have that. But that hasn't happened lately, and it's not going to happen this year."
Compounding Central's offensive problems was the graduation of three of its top four hitters: Phil Steele (.436), Sam Hill (.313) and Mike Hill (.297). Senior John Sirvent, who batted .205 last season, will be the key in the lineup from the leadoff spot, Buel said.
"As a sophomore, he hit .340 with four homers and scored a lot of runs," Buel said. "We hope he can get back to that form. He hits the ball as hard as anyone I've ever had here."
Junior Jerad Brotherwood, who would have solved Hernando's catching situation had his transfer there been approved, returns as Central's top hitter. He batted .300 with 16 RBI. The Bears will need another standout effort from senior Patrick Ryan, who claimed eight of the squad's 13 wins last season and a 3.03 earned-run average.
Buel knows Central can compete with Ryan on the mound, but is bracing for the days when he's is not. "After Patrick, we're hurting," the coach said.
Hernando transfer Travis Tolbert appears to have a bead on the second slot in the rotation, with senior Rich Lisi penciled in at No. 3. Lisi pitched only 8 2/3 innings for the varsity last season.
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