Despite a Dunedin comeback, Seminole holds on to No. 1 ranking with game-winning hit in bottom of seventh.
By PETE YOUNG
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 29, 2001
SEMINOLE- It will not be remembered as one of the best-played games ever.
Just one of the best.
Seminole took a gigantic midseason step in its quest to go wire-to-wire as the nation's No. 1-ranked team, staving off a gritty Dunedin comeback Wednesday to defeat the Falcons 7-6.
After Dunedin rallied from deficits of 5-0 and 6-2 to tie the game at 6 in the top of the seventh, Seminole's Donyelle Williams ripped a game-winning RBI single to bring home Errol Blumer, who had led off the bottom of the seventh with a double, before an estimated crowd of more than 1,000 at Brinker Field.
"Well, that took a few hairs out of my head -- what hairs I have left," Seminole coach Scott Miller said. "It was a great atmosphere. It was everything I thought it would be. It was a great game to be a part of."
The Warhawks, ranked No. 1 in the nation by Baseball America, had defeated the Falcons 7-2 on Feb. 16, handing Dunedin, ranked No. 5 nationally and No. 1 in Class 4A, its only defeat. Wednesday's rematch was a near-carbon copy for the first few innings.
Like in the first meeting, Seminole starter John Killalea escaped early trouble, wiggling out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the top of the first unscathed.
And like the first meeting, Seminole bolted into the lead. In the bottom of the first after two quick outs, Dunedin starter Matt Cheek got in trouble by walking Casey Kotchman and Bobby Wilson. Ryan Dixon then lofted a deep fly to rightfield for a two-run double.
Killalea then stroked an RBI single, Phil Stillwell singled, Blumer walked and Jon Riggleman (2-for-2, double, 2 RBI) lined a base hit, making it 5-0.
However, unlike the first meeting, this time Dunedin charged back. Jeremy Bellotti's two-run double made it 5-2 in the top of the second.
It was 6-2 entering the sixth when Dunedin's Gene Novak and Brad Chamberlain drew leadoff walks from Killalea, who was replaced by Stillwell. Three batters later, Brian Dopirak smashed a two-run single to make it 6-4.
In the top of the seventh against Seminole reliever T.J. Large, Dunedin scored a run courtesy of an infield error to make it 6-5, and then the Falcons loaded the bases. Kenny Holmberg hit a chopper to shortstop, and Stillwell got the force at second. However, Holmberg also was called out because Bellotti's late, straight-in slide was ruled to be "too high and too hard," Dunedin coach Tom Hilbert said he was told by the umpire.
Pinch-runner Bryan Banks scored on the play to tie the game, setting up Blumer's and Williams' heroics.
It was a game of missed opportunities and miscues. Dunedin stranded 12 baserunners and committed three errors. Seminole stranded nine baserunners and also made three errors.
Dunedin pitchers Cheek (four innings pitched), Shaun Phillips (two innings pitched) and John Irving combined for six walks and two hit batsmen. Seminole pitchers Killalea, Stillwell and Large also walked six and hit two.
"We pride ourselves on our pitching and defense. Our defense didn't help us out, and two two-out walks put people on base in the first inning," Hilbert said. "We just couldn't stop the bleeding."
Seminole is undefeated on the field in 17 games this season, but the Warhawks are 7-10 because of forfeits for using an ineligible player. Dunedin is 15-1, including a forfeit win over Seminole.