By JOHN C. COTEY
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 14, 2001
NEW PORT RICHEY -- Bill Phillips arrived at his son Billy's baseball game Tuesday night 10 minutes late. By then, his kid had already blasted a monstrous home run and the Royal Knights had an early lead.
So for five innings, each person who passed by the father standing next to the aluminum bleachers asked him what he thought of his son's blast. Regretfully, Phillips could only respond accordingly: "I didn't see it."
In his last at-bat, Billy made sure his dad didn't miss all the fun. On a 3-2 pitch in the seventh inning, he golfed a shot over the fence in left to break a tie and give the Royal Knights a 4-3 win at Gulf's field.
The elder Phillips not only saw the second shot, which also gave his son the win in relief, but he helped it out of the ballpark with some body language as the Royal Knights improved to 9-3 and 3-2 in the Class 5A, District 8 race.
Gulf had its five-game winning streak snapped and dropped to 6-5.
Phillips' game-winning homer, his fifth in five games, avenged last week's 3-2 loss to the Bucs in which he drove in both runs on a home run.
While his first homer was a prodigious, high-rising shot that stayed just fair down the leftfield line, the second was a better piece of hitting.
"I was fooled on the pitch," Phillips said. "I think it was a changeup. I was out ahead of it."
The pitch by David Pirman spoiled an otherwise solid effort. In relief of starter Mike Stanzione, Pirman allowed just two hits the final four innings. River Ridge had just five hits for the game.
Gulf had six hits, but none when it counted most as it stranded seven runners. Johnny Wirick led off the first with a triple but was stranded. And with the bases loaded in the third. Ryan Richards, who had homered earlier, tapped meekly back to the mound for a 1-2-3 double play.
"We've been swinging the bat real well, but we wasted a lot of opportunities tonight," Gulf coach Shaun Wiemer said. "I thought we were better than three runs."
Chad Justus pitched 5 2/3 innings, but did not get the decision. Phillips relieved in the sixth with runners on first and second and struck out Sal Torre. He finished the Bucs off in the seventh, getting Pirman to ground out to end it.