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Wins becoming very important


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 11, 2000

While the Saint Leo and Pasco-Hernando Community College baseball teams are trying to sneak into the regional playoffs and already looking ahead to next year, respectively, the schools' softball teams are looking good entering the post-season.

Both Saint Leo and PHCC are essentially trying to hold their positions. The Lions softball team may be in the best shape of any of the teams considering the good it did itself Sunday when it swept chief playoff rival Barry.

The Lions (32-13) are in second place in the Sunshine State Conference but was ranked No. 4 in the South Region. The top four teams get regional bids.

Barry was No. 5. So the Lions' sweep, by 4-2 and 5-3 scores, should solidify their hold on No. 4 and create a little distance between itself and Barry, which it has beaten four of six times this year.

"After we picked up a loss on Saturday (against Lynn), we all figured our playoff and conference hopes were down the tubes," coach Christi Wade said. "But as it turned out, everybody kind of split with everybody else. We thought it was a season-ending loss, and it turned out to be a loss that didn't actually kill us."

Saint Leo has 10 games remaining, but Wade said her squad has a lot of confidence and is intent on securing the school's first post-season berth.

PHCC's softball team, on the other hand, has been to the past three state tournaments and is trying to make it four in a row. It is 8-4 in the Suncoast Conference, tied for second with Manatee Community College. The top two teams advance, though there is an at-large berth.

Despite a pitching staff with three freshmen, the Conquistadors are 36-21 and play Polk Community College today and Manatee on Thursday. A pair of sweeps would clinch second for PHCC.

"Everybody knows what the situation is," coach Tom Ryan said. "We control our own destiny."

Not the Saint Leo baseball team. The Lions missed a golden opportunity this weekend to make up some serious ground in the hunt for a second consecutive regional playoff spot when it lost two of three to Rollins.

However, the Lions (29-14) are still alive. For them to make the playoffs, they need to finish at least third in the Sunshine State Conference, though that provides no guarantee as a selection committee will make that choice. Currently, they are fourth at 8-7. Ahead of them, at 8-4, are Florida Southern and Rollins. Tampa is in first and a virtual cinch to claim the SSC title.

So Saint Leo needs help. It needs either Florida Southern or Rollins to lose at least five times in their last nine conference games. It can happen, Stabile said. Chances are, if one of the teams do stumble, it will be Rollins, which plays Florida Southern three times. A Moccasin sweep, for example, means Rollins would need to lose just one each in its other two series, certainly not out of the question.

This is conditional, however, on Saint Leo winning its remaining two three-game series with Eckerd and Lynn. And there are games left with Tampa that do not count in conference standings that could impress the selection folks.

"We've got to probably sweep, I would guess," Saint Leo coach Eddie Stabile said. "We really have no room to lose another conference game.

"We've just got to play hard and let the gods and the committees figure the rest out."

The gods have not smiled upon the PHCC baseball team. Though they started the second half with four consecutive wins and showed signs of possibly making a run for one of the top two spots in the conference, they have stumbled badly. In their past four games, they are hitting .279 while their opponents are hitting .439, and the team ERA is 11.61.

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