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Knights not happy to be in title game

By STEVE LEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 20, 2001


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Ernie Beck's team is the top seed in the first Sunshine Athletic Conference championship game, but the River Ridge coach is not thrilled with the new playoff format.

The Royal Knights won all 12 of their conference games to finish first in the SAC West. They host East-leading Land O'Lakes (8-4 in the SAC) tonight at 7.

For Beck, determining a conference champion under an east versus west format doesn't seem to be all it was cracked up to be when SAC coaches voted in favor of it before the season. Softball is the first sport in the county to implement a conference playoff.

"I don't think it's very good, because (River Ridge) got through the conference schedule with no losses," Beck said. "If (the Gators) come over here and beat me, they get the conference title.

"It looks good on paper, but sometimes when you try it it's got it's flaws."

Land O'Lakes coach Jerry English empathized with Beck, his friend and rival. Nevertheless, English welcomes an opportunity to play for the championship.

"I understand where he's coming from," said English, not forgetting that his team lost twice to River Ridge during the regular season. "I think I would be sitting there if I had a record as good as he did and say, "Wow. What do we have to prove?' But that's the way the cookie crumbles."

Ridgewood coach Greg Bollinger, whose team had the second-best overall conference record at 10-2, is not enamored with the format either.

"I'm not real sure I like it," Bollinger said. "I beat Land O'Lakes and I end up third?"

It could happen.

If Land O'Lakes defeats River Ridge and Ridgewood defeats visiting Pasco tonight at 7, the Rams would have to settle for third place even though they defeated the Gators in their only meeting this season.

Ridgewood shortstop Bethann Blankenship is more concerned with utilizing the new format to prepare for next week's district tournament.

"I think it's neat," she said. "It's always good to play an extra game."

In tonight's other game, Mitchell plays Wesley Chapel at River Ridge at 5.

Zephyrhills and Hudson played last night, but results were unavailable at press time.

Gulf is the odd team out in the nine-team SAC and will not get to compete in a playoff game.

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