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Gulf reeling as post-season begins

After 6-1 start, the Buccaneers have lost nine of their past 13.

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 25, 2000


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Going out to dinner as a team, meeting at the batting cages in Tarpon Springs and allowing the seniors to run practices.

Gulf softball coach Lori Jaros tried everything. And nothing worked.

The Buccaneers started the season 6-1 and talked freely about district championships and finally gaining some respect in the county.

"I don't want to sound cocky, but I think we're going to regionals," senior pitcher Becky Stanzione said in early March. "That's basically what our goal is. We want to go to regionals and hopefully advance to state. We just keep that in mind and keep winning, rolling over everyone."

But something happened on the way to the post-season.

Jaros doesn't know exactly what, though.

"If I knew that, I would be the best coach in the world," she said last week. "I had no idea what happened. It certainly hit us hard whatever it was."

From March 9-28, the Buccaneers slipped into a dreadful slump.

They lost five straight and enter the Class 5A, District 10 tournament at River Ridge having lost nine of their past 13. Gulf (10-10, 2-6) plays Land O'Lakes (12-11, 1-7) at 6 p.m. today.

The two split this season with the Buccaneers winning 4-3 on Feb. 22 and the Gators 11-1 on March 16.

"They played good the first game and didn't play very good the second game," Land O'Lakes coach Jerry English said. "We kind of caught them on the rebound."

Gulf's midseason slump sent the Buccaneers hurdling from first place in the conference to fourth, and from second in the district to fourth.

"We weren't hitting the ball and we had made a lot of errors," Jaros said. "It was both. We weren't playing ball all that well. I don't know what happened."

Two weeks ago, Jaros pulled Gulf out of the Rams Classic less than 36 hours before the Buccaneers were scheduled to play. She cited a tough tournament field and a lack of commitment from her team as reasons why she canceled.

With more than a week's rest, Gulf regrouped in its last two regular-season games.

The Buccaneers beat Wesley Chapel 12-2 and Zephyrhills 10-6. Against Zephyrhills, Gulf pounded out 15 hits, four from infielder Kelly Packer.

"The last week, I think the seniors were starting to get a little sad because the season coming to an end gets people closer," Jaros said. "I think they're getting themselves psyched to play."

Senior pitcher Becky Stanzione will start against Land O'Lakes. She has a 9-4 record with a 1.52 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 69 innings pitched.

Senior shortstop Bridget Murphy is second on the team in batting (.352) behind infielder Sarah Haney (.355).

Today's winner will play No. 1 seed River Ridge Wednesday at 8 p.m. Gulf beat the Royal Knights 4-2 on Feb. 24 for their final district win of the season.

"We've beaten Land O'Lakes and we've beaten River Ridge before," Jaros said. "After that, the next round, we had a close game against Ridgewood and East Lake. We can do it. We certainly have a chance at winning it. That would be great. That's what we were hoping to do in the beginning of the year."

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