By BRANT JAMES
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001
Central players know they have a real chance to win every time senior right-hander Patrick Ryan pitches.
That feeling is ingrained after watching him develop into one of the area's most reliable pitchers over the last three years. The Bears need only to look at the statistics if they forget.
After tossing a complete game and out-dueling Zephyrhills' Danny Wardell in a 3-2 win Friday, Ryan improved to 3-1 for a team that is 5-6.
"He rises to occasion," Central coach Gary Buel said. "He's a gamer.
"He knows he's our guy, that mound is his, and that's what we want," Buel said. "We want him to be aggressive and take it right to people."
Ryan did, allowing only five singles by setting up his knee-buckling curveball with inside fastballs.
Ryan danced through the inexperienced Bulldogs' lineup, struggling only with Wardell, a senior who finished 3-for-3. Ryan lowered his earned-run average to 0.96.
Ryan said he enjoyed the personal battle with Wardell not only as a batter but as a fellow pitcher. Wardell struck out five of the first six hitters he faced.
"I knew we had to keep pace with them," Ryan said. "He's their No. 1 back from last year, and they got a good team.
"We were up for it. I had to throw some strikes and let the defense make plays behind me."
Central won with one out in the seventh inning when Jerad Brotherwood sprayed a single to right, scoring John Sirvent from second base.
Sirvent had walked and taken second on a wild pitch from Wardell.
Randy Cseh sparked the Bears' first rally when he singled and took second on a D.J. Anderson sacrifice in the third. Chris Bowden tripled him home and scored on a Jamie McElfresh groundout.
Zephyrhills tied the score with unearned runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
UNSIGNED: Ryan hasn't found a place to play next year.
He said he has "talked" to coaches from Saint Leo and Central Florida Community College -- where former Central catcher Brian Loscalzo is a sophomore -- but has no offers.
REVENGE: It seems everybody comes at Hernando with a little extra blood in their eyes. At least that's the way Leopards coach Tim Sims sees it.
Hernando (4-6) has dropped four consecutive games, including defeats to county rivals Central and Springstead.
Their wins were celebrated with a bit more than the usual amount of glee, as the Bears and Eagles felt they were enacting revenge for things that happened outside the high school baseball season: their players transferring to Hernando.
Namely pitcher/outfielder J.T. Fobell leaving Springstead for Hernando in June, and Brotherwood unsuccessfully attempting to leave Central and join him.
Past transfers of pitcher Travis Bruns and Chris Cole from Crystal River extends the enmity north.
"Crystal River is going to play hard against us because of the Cole and Bruns situations," Sims said. "Central is, naturally, because of the Brotherwood situation.
"The thing is, and I've said this all along, kids can go where they want to. A state law says that. It's a family matter, plain and simple."
Sims elected not to play Fobell against Springstead in a 3-1 loss Tuesday, but not because the coach feared reprisal, he said.
"I feel so sorry for a young man tonight," Sims said after the game. "I'm not going to play him against them. I'm not going to put a kid through that. He's too classy a kid to be put in that situation."
TEAM OF THEIR OWN: Those suspicious of the influx of transfers into Hernando see the county's Dixie League all-star teams Sims coaches as recruiting vehicles.
On those squads, a smattering of Central and Springstead players mingle with a majority from the Leopards program.
The success of those teams, including a Major national championship last summer, creates instant comraderie among players and nurtures thoughts of replicating that success in high school.
Brotherwood and Ryan were among the Central players on the national title squad. Fobell played American Legion in Pasco County.
"We play well in the summer, and for whatever reason -- I hope it's because we are usually decent -- we had a few kids come in from different areas," Sims said.
This season, the county Dixie team likely will have to do without most of the high school-eligible players it drew from Central. That's because Buel will coach an American Legion "B' division club comprised of players age 17 and younger from his program.
"We'll play most in Hillsborough and Pasco counties," Buel said.
Sims said he didn't mind the likely loss of players. "I think it'll be a positive." TOLD YA: Springstead coach Tracy Clark had been preaching patience through a seven-game losing streak. He finally got to see the Eagles celebrate after the win at Emerson Field.
"I had been telling the guys, "Give us a few more weeks, we're going to come around,' " Clark said.
"It's early. When we were 1-6, I told them that was only seven out of 27-plus," he said. "We just needed to plug away."
MAJOR LEAGUES: Hernando alum Bronson Arroyo survived the first round of minor-league reassignments this week.
The Pittsburgh Pirates sent down younger players John Grabow, Paul Ah Yat, Wilson Guzman, Chris Spurling, Manuel Bernal and Bobby Bradley, J.J. Davis and catcher J.R. House -- the organization's top prospect and a former catcher at Seabreeze High School.
SIGNING: Hernando pitcher/outfielder Nick Westbrook has signed a scholarship to play at St. Johns River Community College in Palatka. Westbrook was batting .320 with a home run through 10 games this year. He was 0-1 with a 1.68 ERA as a pitcher.
Westbrook will receive tuition, books and $600 per semester, according to the Hernando baseball staff.