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Fungo golf association relaxes Rams

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2001


It's actually a pretty easy shot to sink. Caddie Joe Anders declared it a par-4, and Ridgewood assistant coach Mike Yusko managed to land his drive within 6 feet of the target. A good putt will eagle it. A bad one will birdie it.

But that's nothing for a golfer of Yusko's skills.

"He once birdied on a par-9," Anders said.

A par-9?

"Yeah," Anders said. "It landed on top of the dugout so I called it a par-9."

Welcome to the Ridgewood Fungo Golf Association.

If it sounds weird, well, that's because it is.

Most days before games, the association's members can be seen slowly working their way around the Ridgewood baseball field. Wednesday it was Yusko and his caddie, Anders. Assistant coach Howard Chittum was being caddied by Nate Bradley. Dave Hancox had Mike Argernon to call on.

The object is simple: A baseball is batted in any direction. Wherever it lands -- literally -- that's the hole. From there, each golfer must maneuver to the hole, golf-style. Only the club is the bat, and the baseball is, well, the ball.

The ball is driven with a swing of the bat, then putted to the target croquet-style. Golf etiquette still rules, however, and breaking it will earn the coaches' ire.

Yusko learned the game back in his days playing for Chowan College in Murfreesboro, N.C.

"It's just a little something we like to do during game days," Ridgewood coach Larry Beets said. "It's sort of become a tradition now."

Yusko said the key is a good caddie. He got his from the track team.

"Ever since Joe became my caddie," Yusko said. "I've been playing a lot better."

TAKE COVER: Justin Roth was trying to find the umpire's strike zone when he let the 2-2 slider go just a tad bit too much inside. It ended up in his chest.

River Ridge coach Jack Homko feared the worst when he saw his sophomore left-hander and No. 1 starter collapse on the mound after being beaned with his own pitch last Friday against Pasco.

"That's just scary," he said. "You never want to see that happen to anyone."

A woozy Roth was on his feet soon afterward and was cleared by paramedics. "I was told I blacked out for a little bit, and I couldn't breathe," Roth said. "I just had a couple of bruised ribs but that's all.

"Saturday morning when I woke up I could see the laces where I got hit."

Homko held Roth out this week but he will return for the upcoming Dunedin Tournament.

COMMITTED: The county's wins leader, Land O'Lakes' Rich Neste, said he will sign with St. Mary's College of Maryland when the season is over. Neste, who leads the county with a 7-0 record, said he will receive a combined academic and athletic scholarship from the Division III Seahawks.

HIT SHOW: It was like old times for Zephyrhills Wednesday night as the Bulldogs battered Mitchell 22-2, a score more reminiscent of last season's record-setting home run binge.

Mustangs coach Phil Bell said his pitching was just off the entire game. Good thing the 10-run rule was invoked. The young Mustangs went through five pitchers, gave up 13 hits and walked 13 in the rout.

It was all the more surprising because Mitchell beat Zephyrhills in the preseason and held a sixth-inning lead before losing in their first regular-season meeting.

"I'm really trying to keep everything positive," Bell said. "We're just going to go back to practice. We've got Osceola (tonight) and Ridgewood on Tuesday, so it doesn't get any easier, that's for sure.

"I think well be fine next year and the year after, but we have to get through this first one."

Zephyrhills' Kyle Watson went 5-for-5 and had six RBI, and Mark Dunn had a grand slam blast that gave the Bulldogs a 9-0 first-inning lead.

"Every time we get up, we're so hard to figure out," Zephyrhills coach Bruce Cimorelli said. "We beat Gulf 12-0, and then we stunk it up against Land O'Lakes and got 10 errors."

CAST OFF: Gulf catcher Paul Krisanda's four-week absence because of a broken left hand could end at next week's Tarpon Springs Coca-Cola Tournament.

Bucs coach Shaun Wiemer said his team could certainly use the offensive boost. Sidney Gibbs is the only full-time player batting over .300, and two of David Pirman's losses have come from a total of six hits.

"Our hitting is so close," Wiemer said. "We just can't seem to get over the hump with our offense. Our pitching and defense is outstanding. I've got three pitchers with ERAs under 3.00."

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