Top kicker transfers
By JAMAL THALJI
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 9, 2001
WESLEY CHAPEL -- Kicker Gilbert Montelongo points at the scoreboard behind the north end zone and predicts he'll be able to hit it with one of his booming field goals.
Only the former Pasco kicker is standing inside the end zone in Wildcat Stadium, pointing at the scoreboard that says "Wildcats."
Montelongo, Pasco County's best kicker, transferred last month after his season as the Pirates' goalkeeper ended. The junior said he intends to come out for Wesley Chapel's spring football practice and compete in that sport and soccer for the Wildcats when the 2001 season begins.
He brings with him a right leg that can boot kickoffs behind the end zone and one that nailed a career-best 55-yard field goal. He also fills a void on a Wesley Chapel team that returns all but two starters from last season's 5-5 unit, one that will play an easier schedule in the new Class 3A, District 7 with Gulf, Hernando, Hudson, Zephyrhills and Pasco.
Montelongo said he made the move because he wants to reunite with teachers he knew at Weightman Middle, and because he wants to be used differently as a kicker.
"I just wanted to try something new," he said. "I've wanted to do it ever since my 10th-grade year."
Asked if he had any comment, Pasco coach Ricky Thomas said: "None. Not one bit."
Montelongo said he was disappointed in how he was used by the Pirates. At least twice, he said, he recalls the field goal unit being sent onto the field and then being pulled back.
Montelongo said he spoke briefly to Thomas and assistant coach Ricky Giles before he left Pasco. Both wished him good luck, but Montelongo knows he leaves behind bruised feelings.
ID: + Paper: +
Date: 3/09/01 Page: 4 +
Section: PASCO TIMES Byline: JOHN C. COTEY +
Headline: Wardell's homers not enough for Bulldogs anymore
Random baseball thoughts ..
Danny Wardell not only leads the county in almost every hitting category, but he was pretty impressive as a pitcher Tuesday against Lecanto. Counted on to be the ace at Zephyrhills this season, Wardell shut down Lecanto 8-1 to get his first win. Wardell allowed just two hits and struck out 14. Now, if coach Bruce Cimorelli can just cajole that out of him every night.
"He needs to for us to compete," Cimorelli said. "I don't want to put all the pressure on him, but ..."
Jake Cimorelli, younger brother of Brett and just a freshman, has not allowed a run in the three innings he has pitched so far.
Who said Rich Neste was all hit and no field? The senior is the biggest pitching surprise in the county.
Not only did he gut his way through a no decision against nationally-ranked Dunedin, but he also held Pasco in check Wednesday night before the Pirates won the game in extra innings.
For the season, Neste, who was a designated hitter last year, has allowed just three earned runs in 21.2 innings while striking out 23.
Though his hitting has suffered -- he batted .400 last year and is around .250 -- Gators' coach Calvin Baisley has seen signs that Neste's stick will come around.
Pasco might be the least productive .500 team in the county -- its leader in RBI is Lee Cruz with only five. Last season, Wesley Chapel practiced at little league fields and played all of its games on the road. So this year, the Wildcats open up in a new ballpark coach Steve Mumaw has meticulously groomed into a serious upgrade, and what do they do?
Boot everything hit at them.
It has Mumaw wondering if as punishment he shouldn't send his team back to those crummy fields.
"Don't think I haven't told the kids that," Mumaw said, half-joking.
The Wildcats are winless despite dropping their team ERA from more than 8.00 last year to 3.94. But in six of their eight losses, the Wildcats have committed five or more errors and had eight in three of those games.
Mumaw is being driven crazy by things like this: At Dunnellon three weeks ago, the Wildcats commit just one error and lose 2-1. In the rematch at home, they commit six and lose 11-1.
Speaking of Wesley Chapel's fielding woes, our crazy stat of the week: Pitcher Chad Siers is 0-4, but his ERA is 1.80. Siers has allowed 16 runs, but 13 are unearned.
He is not alone -- Donald Chapin has a 0.88 ERA (one earned run, five unearned) and Kevin Cate has a 2.21 ERA (two earned, 15 unearned).
Derek Kurliw 6, Mitchell 3. The Ridgewood shortstop drove in six runs with two home runs -- including a grand slam -- as his Rams beat the Mustangs 13-3 Wednesday night.
River Ridge coach Jack Homko began the year relying on a pitching staff comprised primarily of a sophomore (Justin Roth) as his ace, a senior (Chad Justus) who hadn't pitched much as his No. 2, and a closer (Billy Phillips) who was the starting catcher and would hardly be entering games fresh.
So far, the Royal Knights have hardly suffered for it. Roth (3-0) leads the county in wins, Phillips has 21 strikeouts in 10 innings with one save, Justus has been solid and the team ERA is a sterling 1.49.
River Ridge took a four-game win streak into Thursday's meeting with Gulf, the start of a stretch that will show whether the Royal Knights are just off to a hot start or are a legitimate team to watch in the SAC and district races.
The Royal Knights (7-2) must play Palm Harbor, Gulf again, East Lake, Zephyrhills and Land O'Lakes before March 21.
That's almost as tough as the stretch that awaits Hudson beginning tonight: Land O'Lakes, Zephyrhills, Dunedin and Ridgewood.
Brian Baisley returned to the Land O'Lakes lineup Wednesday night at first base, but will not be catching for a few more weeks as father and coach Calvin uses him elsewhere. Baisley is still nursing a stress fracture in his right hand after injuring it during basketball season.
Though Calvin says he needs to get Brian's bat back in the lineup, there's no rush to get him back behind the plate, especially the way Robbie Alvarez has played in his stead. The junior has been outstanding defensively.
"We haven't missed anything defensively," Calvin Baisley said. "He's throwing the ball well, blocking everything. Defensively we haven't missed a beat. But Robbie is getting tired. He's been our workhorse."
Alvarez has caught all but three innings this season.
- John C. Cotey covers baseball in Pasco County. He can be reached at 727-869-6261, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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