By FRANK PASTOR
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 21, 2001
SEFFNER -- When Clint Bliss broke his hand in a car crash earlier this season, sophomore Jason Baroff became Gaither's starting first baseman.
Baroff got off to a good start in the first 13 games and even hit a home run against Wharton. But he slumped as Bliss was ready to return.
Though Baroff has had few opportunities since, Friday's Western Conference final marked one of them.
Baroff hit a grand slam and drove in five runs as Gaither pounded Riverview 10-2 at Armwood to claim its third conference title since 1993.
Gaither scored two unearned runs in the first to take a 2-1 lead, and Baroff put the game away with his blast to left-centerfield in the third.
"I want to stay in the starting lineup, produce and be a leader," Baroff said. "I had to step up."
Ray Reed and Chris Delaney combined to limit Riverview to three hits. Delaney pitched one-hit ball over the final 31/3 innings to pick up the victory.
Gaither (18-7) next will play Bloomingdale in the district tournament on Tuesday. Riverview (16-8) will meet Sarasota.
"If we stay aggressive like that, it's a nice way to go into districts," Gaither coach Frank Permuy said.