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Pasco baseball

By JOHN C. COTEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 18, 2001


Gulf

Last year: 11-17; lost to Ridgewood 11-5 in district quarterfinals

Coach: Shaun Wiemer, first season

Top returners: Joe Dan Fagan, Sr., P; Johnny Wirick, Sr., P/INF; Paul Krisanda, Sr., C; Dave Pirman, Sr., INF/P, Sidney Gibbs, Sr., OF; Joey Aldridge, Sr., OF; Nelson Rodriguez, Sr., CF; Mike Stanzione, Jr., P/OF; Ryan Richards, Jr., 1B; Dan Proctor, Sr., INF

Outlook: The Bucs return a ton of senior leadership with tall, lanky lefty Fagan as the ace. Wirick and Pirman come off solid seasons, and Wiemer is sky-high on Rodriguez, who he said is drawing interest from colleges. Wiemer also said he is looking for big things from sophomore pitcher Kevin Campbell, who did not play last year. Wiemer, a former Gulf star, has cousin Ronnie Wiemer, a '98 Ridgewood grad, on his staff as well as Mike Bobala (Hudson, '87), a former Milwaukee Brewers draft choice.

Hudson

Last year: 9-18; lost to Tarpon Springs 11-1 in district quarterfinal

Coach: Jack Ledbetter (9-18, second season)

Top returners: Robby Mahler, Sr., SS; Jeremy Lees, Sr., OF/P; Mark Wilty, Sr., P; Joe Gucciardo, Sr., C; Mike Cieszynski, Sr., 1B/P; James Jubran, Sr., OF; Rob Petrucci, Jr., P/OF; Steve Smith, Jr., RF

Outlook: The Cobras struggled last year but Ledbetter thinks the experience will pay off in 2001. Petrucci is one of the county's top pitchers (4-5 last year, 3.60 ERA) and an able hitter as well. He will be joined on the mound by Lees, Wilty and Cieszynski. Ledbetter thinks this group will determine how the team fares. "They went through the growing pains last year and at times took their licks, but they have that experience under their belt," he said. "We lost some very good players (Brad Felten, Brad Hupp, Paul Przepis), but the team as a whole is better than we were last year."

Land O'Lakes

Last year: 25-5; lost in regional semifinals

Coach: Cal Baisley (219-221, 16th season)

Top returners: Victor Roldan, Sr., UT; Brian Baisley, Sr., C; Jeff Baisley, Sr., P/SS; Jose Santa, Sr., P; David Starkey, Sr., P; Rich Neste, Sr., P/1B; Greg Rosenthal, Jr., 2B

Outlook: tHe Gators graduated their once in a lifetime pitching staff and also lost some key hitters, but return enough to be included as one of the conference favorites. The Baisley brothers, both all-county and all-conference, are as good as they come, and Jeff will be counted on to fill a spot in the pitching rotation. Roldan has good power and Neste was near .400 all season. Rosenthal showed himself to be a blossoming star. The Gators' hopes will ride on their pitching as Santa and Starkey assume bigger roles after spot duty last year and junior varsity ace Phillip Whitten adjusts to varsity ball.

Mitchell

Last year: This is their first season

Coach: Phil Bell, first season

Top returners: None

Outlook: Bell helped turn Gulf into a respectable program, but will have his hands full trying to get the Mustangs going. Like Steve Mumaw at Wesley Chapel last year, his team will be mostly comprised of freshmen and sophomores, and other than some junior varsity experience at River Ridge or another school, the team will be green. In fact, Wesley Chapel beat it 12-2 at the City Classic, an indication of the tough season to come.

Pasco

Last year: 18-12; lost to Central 5-4 in district semifinals

Coach: Ricky Giles (115-77, eighth season)

Top returners: Josh Castro, Sr., C; Trey Evans, Sr., P; Bobby Badger, Sr., P/OF; Scott Dewitt, Sr., P/INF; Jessie Wilson, Sr., P/INF; Lee Cruz, Jr., SS; Orlando Rosales, Jr., CF; Antoine Standifer, Jr., OF

Outlook: Pasco wasn't really that young last year, but it definitely played like it. This year, the Pirates are bolstered by a strong group of seniors and arguably the county's best and deepest pitching staff. Wilson already has a two-hit shutout to his credit and Evans (the ace), Badger and Dewitt are all capable hurlers. They are also good hitters who will play the field when not on the mound. Lee Cruz takes over for brother Alex at short, and Rosales, Standifer and Badger make up a fast outfield. The Pirates need to gel and find the consistency that dogged them, and they should be a conference contender.

Ridgewood

Last year: 14-15; lost to Land O'Lakes 10-8 in district semifinals

Coach: larry Beets (283-215, 18th season)

Top returners: Dave Hancox, Sr., P/2B; Derek Kuryliw, Sr., SS/C; Rick Brensinger, Sr., C/OF; Justin Libecap, Sr., P/OF/1B; Mike Sentner, Sr., OF; Ronny Low, Jr., P; Richie Hittel, Jr., P/UT

Outlook: hAncox might be the county's best pitcher and can hit to boot, and Kuryliw could challenge for the home run title. But what really makes the Rams arguably the team to beat is the pitching staff, with lefties Libecap and Low joining Hancox to make a formidable threesome. Hittel was also quite effective last year. Youngsters like Monte Werner (LF), Matt Laliberte (1B/P), Aaron McLamar (who will start at 3B) and Patrick Potter (2B) will play bigger roles this season and give the Rams a deep team.

River Ridge

Last year: 11-15; lost to East Lake 5-0 in district semifinals

Coach: Jack Homko (87-146, ninth season)

Top returners: Billy Phillips, Sr., C/P; Joe Savino, Sr., CF; Greg Estevez, Sr., SS; Tommy Dillon, Sr., 3B; Aaron Worley, Sr., LF; Chad Justice, Sr., OF/P; Justin Roth, So., P; Brandon Dellechiaie, Jr., 1B/P

Outlook: If Brian Baisley isn't the best catcher in Pasco, then Phillips (.405, 17 RBI) is. And this season he'll add the role of closer to his resume. Savino had a good year last year (.337, 19 RBI) and will be counted on to drive in runs for the Royal Knights, but the team will have to play station-to-station ball as it lacks power. Homko is going to rely on the young Roth (1-2, 2.88 ERA) to be his ace, but is also high on what he has seen so far in Justice and Dellechiaie. Though they had a bad defensive game at the Tom Varn Invitational, Homko expects defense to be a team strength. "I think it will be a good team, probably the best team we've had," he said.

Wesley Chapel

Last year: 1-25; lost to Hernando 10-9 in district semifinals

Coach: Steve Mumaw (1-25, second season)

Top returners: Jason Wayt, Sr., SS/P; Gabe Quinones, Sr., OF; Adam Gaudens, Sr., P; Justin Wortley, Jr., 1B/DH; Kevin Cate, Sr., P/UT.

Outlook: tHE Wildcats had a tough time last year as a very young team, but its best players will be seniors this season. That includes Wayt, probably the team's best pitcher, and Quinones, who was honorable mention all-conference last season after leading the team with a .360 batting average. Quinones is already off to a .564 start through three games. Mumaw still has five freshmen and two sophomores on his roster who need to step up and develop as the year goes on. The Wildcats had Hernando on the ropes in the first round of the district playoffs before losing in the bottom of the seventh, but have been slow to build on that finish, starting 0-3 with just 13 hits.

Zephyrhills

Last year: 31-3; lost to Jacksonvile Bishop Kenny 9-0 in 4A state semifinals

Coach: Bruce Cimorelli (78-44, fourth season)

Top returners: Danny Wardell, Sr., SS/P; Kyle Watson, Jr., 1B/OF; Russell Hartley, Sr., INF/P; Tyson Prickett, Sr., 1B/P; Bradley Howard, Sr., DH/OF; Justin Whitworth, Jr., C/OF; Chris Griffin, Sr., 3B

Outlook: the Bulldogs set a state home run record and made the final four last year. While that won't happen again as a majority of the team graduated, Cimorelli hopes his team can be competitive, and so far it has. Wardell led the county in hitting last year and might be its best player, but he loses a lot of protection in the lineup. Watson is an emerging force. Other than those two, few of the current Bulldogs saw much time last year. Jake Cimorelli, the coach's son, is one of the young additions along with fellow freshman Ben Hardy being counted on to fill big shoes.

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