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Bulldogs hunting for some upsets

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 25, 2000


ZEPHYRHILLS -- Ashley McGavern walked out to softball practice two months ago, saw her teammates and got excited by all the talent around her.

Eight wins and 18 losses later, the Zephyrhills junior shortstop still feels the same way as the Bulldogs enter the Class 4A, District 6 tournament this week at Hudson.

"I think we'll have a very good chance," McGavern said. "I think if everybody comes together and everyone plays their best games, I think we have a really good chance at doing really well. I think we're a very good team. We just haven't clicked yet."

Zephyrhills has lost six of its past eight games heading into post-season play, but coach Pat Moul and her players are right where they wanted to be.

The Bulldogs play Tarpon Springs at 7 p.m. Wednesday in one semifinal.

"They seem to rise to the occasion, which is good," Moul said.

Which is what Zephyrhills did in its final two regular-season district games this season. The Bulldogs won their final two district games -- against Springstead and Hudson -- to secure the third seed, which is opposite defending Class 4A state champion and No. 1 seed Palm Harbor University.

"They kept their heads in good enough and played and beat them," Moul said. "That's a good sign."

Tarpon Springs and Zephyrhills split two games with the Spongers winning 9-6 on March 1 and losing 4-3 on March 14.

"I think if we play well, we should beat them," McGavern said. "When we lost, it was just a bad day and we got down on ourselves and made mental errors. The next game, we played really well, came together and we won."

A win Wednesday would advance the Bulldogs to the 4A-6 championship game, where they would more than likely play PHU.

But in no way is Zephyrhills scared.

When asked last week if her team would be intimidated, Moul laughed and turned to her team and posed the question.

"Uh, you guys, are you intimidated by Palm Harbor?"

A resounding, "Nooooooo!" volleyed back.

The Bulldogs lost twice to PHU -- 10-0 on March 30 and 6-3 on April 7.

"They're a very good team, very well-coached," McGavern said. "It's just good softball. We knock our notch up. We play at a higher level when we play them."

Perhaps more important than possibly playing PHU, a semifinal win against Tarpon Springs would put Zephyrhills in the regional playoffs for the second straight year and third time since 1995.

McGavern, senior catcher Courtney Cavall (.353), senior infielder Andrea Wardell (.324) and junior pitcher Ashley Tunker will be looked upon to produce at the plate. While sophomore pitcher Christine Bice was out for six weeks with an arm injury and now has an ankle injury, Tunker has thrown more than 100 innings with a 5.61 ERA.

"We all have planned that we're going to play Palm Harbor," Tunker said. "If we can just past Tarpon, we've got Palm Harbor. I don't think we'll beat them, but I think it will be close. We'll do good enough that if we start playing together and my pitching gets better, we'll do all right."

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