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Zephyrhills is surviving close calls


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2000

Some county coaches have wondered if the lack of close games for Zephyrhills would somehow prove its undoing in the playoffs if such a game were to come along.

Well, no need to fear for the Bulldogs anymore. In the past two weeks, the Bulldogs have had more than their fair share of close encounters, escaping with a victory each time to run its winning streak to 15. "We've been in a bunch of close ones lately," Zephyrhills coach Bruce Cimorelli said.

That latest, Wednesday's escape from Tarpon Springs, was the most dire situation the Bulldogs faced since March 3, when they needed a two-run homer by Danny Wardell in the seventh to tie the game and a shot by Brett Cimorelli in the eighth to beat Hudson 9-8.

The Spongers had the Bulldogs in a 4-3 hole in the top of the seventh with two outs, but a wild pitch with the bases loaded scored the tying run, and catcher Brooke Boyette followed with a single over the shortstop's head to score two more for the 6-4 win.

"It was really kind of a playoff atmosphere last night," Bruce Cimorelli said. "We didn't play real good; my hat goes off to Tarpon Springs."

The average margin of victory for the Bulldogs in their past six games is just 2.5 runs, far below their season average. Included in the recent spate of nailbiters was a 12-10 win over Ridgewood, 7-6 over Hernando (on a seventh inning homer by Wardell), and 5-3 over Pasco.

"I think that's good," Bruce Cimorelli said. "Somehow the kids found a way to win. Maybe it wouldn't even do us bad to lose a ballgame. The kids need to realize that everyone has the newspaper articles pinned up on the dugout with the (Bulldog player's names) highlighted, and everyone is out to get us. They want to knock off the No. 2 team in the state, the team that's ranked nationally so we have to come ready to play."

Cimorelli thinks that since knocking Zephyrhills off would make many a team's season, the Bulldogs are seeing more No. 1 pitchers and more inspired efforts by the opposition. That may also account for the Bulldogs home run "slump": the team has just four in its past five games.

LOOK OUT: For the season, Zephyrhills has 51 homers, but as crazy as it sounds, Land O'Lakes could possibly catch it. Victor Roldan's home run Wednesday against Springstead -- one of three the Gators hit -- set the school record at 39, and the Gators are now at 40. While Zephyrhills has just one game left, against Land O'Lakes, the Gators have five remaining (including last night), one a rematch with Springstead and another against Wesley Chapel.

BUSY WEEK: The Gators played Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and finish with a game tonight against Jesuit, but you won't hear coach Cal Baisley complaining.

"At this time of year, I'd like to play every day," he said. "Everybody likes to play more than they like to practice."

Land O'Lakes beat Hudson 11-1 Tuesday behind Derek Thompson's sixth win, and Brian Baisley went 3-for-3 with two doubles and a home run the Gators beat Springstead 11-2 Wednesday.

DOYNE'S GROIN: Gators pitcher Cory Doyne -- who starred for Tampa Catholic for two seasons -- will pitch tonight against old rival Tampa Jesuit. After straining his groin two weeks ago in a game, Doyne appears to be healed, according to Cal Baisley.

WEIRD SCORES: A couple of 2-1 games we can see, or 3-2, or even in this season of the long ball 11-1. But Wesley Chapel lost a pair of 18-7 games in a span of three days last week. On April 4th, Pasco beat the Wildcats 18-7. Two days later River Ridge duplicated that effort.

The Wildcats are 1-23 with 19 straight losses. They play at Land O'Lakes to close their inaugural regular season Monday.

FORMER STARS: After his team beat Hudson in a 4 p.m. game Tuesday, Cal Baisley hustled to see son Brad pitch for the Clearwater Phillies. What he saw was his son's first start of the season and one of his best outings as a pro.

Brad Baisley pitched seven innings of two-hit, scoreless ball to earn his first win of the season.

"I'm not easily impressed, but I thought that was the best I've seen him pitch at that level," Cal said.

It was Brad's second appearance. His first was four innings in relief of rehabbing major leaguers Curt Schilling and Jeff Brantley. Brad picked up the first save of his career.

- John C. Cotey covers baseball for the Pasco Times. He can be reached at (727) 869-6261 or by e-mail at Coaches are encouraged to call in statistics and notes Wednesday and Thursday morning.

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