By BRANT JAMES
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 26, 2001
BROOKSVILLE -- Central needed 11 innings -- 10 of them pitched by ace Patrick Ryan -- and heroic plays in the top and bottom of the final inning by junior Jamie McElfresh to advance to the regional playoffs for the fifth time in six years 3-2 over Lecanto on Wednesday.
Second-seeded Central (14-14) faces top-seeded Pasco (21-7) at 7 p.m. today at Hernando for the Class 4A, District 6 title.
Pasco advanced to the final for the first time since 1998 8-0 over Zephyrhills behind Jesse Wilson's one-hitter.
"Every time we come into (districts), we seem to come in jittery," said Pasco coach Ricky Giles, whose team was upset by Central in the semifinals last season. "Now it's time to go ahead and step further."
McElfresh, who started 0-for-5, won it for Central when he singled David Egan home from third with none out in the 11th. Central, which relied on Ryan's arm all season, didn't figure to get a chance for such drama when its ace, by state rule, had to leave after 10 innings. Ryan allowed one earned run on nine hits and struck out 11.
The Bears' chances looked even worse when Eric Stewart led off the 11th with a double off Randy Cseh. But after a sacrifice bunt sent Stewart to third, McElfresh, a second baseman, fielded a grounder and threw him out at home.
"I wasn't nervous on the hit, but I was nervous there," McElfresh said. "When it was hit, I knew it was coming to me and I had to make the play."
Lecanto's Jimmy Metz pitched nine innings, allowing two runs on 10 hits with five strikeouts.
Pasco's route to the final was much more simple as it beat its rival for the third time this season. Leadoff hitter Orlando Rosales paced the Pirates, going 4-for-4 with three runs scored.
NEW PORT RICHEY -- The top two seeds are history, and so is this: Gulf has clinched a regional playoff berth for the first time in school history, coach Shawn Wiemer said.
In Wednesday's semifinals, the Bucs rallied from a five-run deficit to defeat No. 2 Palm Harbor 6-5, and Ridgewood junior left-hander Ronny Lowe almost made it back-to-back no-hitters for the Rams, who knocked off top-seeded East Lake 2-0 to set up Friday's championship game.
"We get to play the Pasco County District 9 championship," said Ridgewood coach Larry Beets, whose team is 20-9. "Both Pasco teams are going to get a trophy."
Both Pasco teams turned in stirring performances against their Pinellas counterparts, none more so than Lowe. In his last outing against East Lake, Lowe (4-4) gave up seven runs and didn't make it out of the third inning. Wednesday, he was brilliant in holding the Eagles (18-10) hitless for 61/3 innings on the heels of Dave Hancox's no-hitter against River Ridge the night before.
Buoyed by Derek Kuryliw's RBI double in the fifth inning and an unearned run in the sixth, Lowe struck out six Eagles and wasn't touched until Tyler Huegel doubled off the wall in centerfield with one out in the seventh. After a flyout, Mike Guidi singled to right, but sophomore Monte Werner threw Huegel out at the plate to end the game.
In the other semifinal, Palm Harbor (15-12) knocked Gulf ace Joe Dan Fagan out in the third inning in taking a 5-0 lead.
But in the fourth, Sidney Gibbs ended a 12 pitch at-bat with a double and later scored to spark a rally as the Bucs (15-14) scored two runs. Gulf added two more in the fifth before tying the game in the sixth when Rodney Linville scored from third on a slow roller between the mound and first base.
In the seventh, Linville reached on a fielder's choice and scored all the way from first when the Hurricanes' Adam Royster -- who had homered and doubled twice -- threw a routine grounder away down the rightfield line. -- John C. Cotey
DUNEDIN -- Despite five errors, Hudson found itself down just two runs in the top of the sixth with runners on first and second base.
However, the Falcons turned a double play, got out of the inning and went on to score two runs before closing out their 6-2 win at Dunedin's Englebert Field.
Justin Razey went 2-for-3 with a double and one RBI. Robert Petrucci went the distance on the mound with five strikeouts. Dunedin's Bryan Banks pitched the first six innings, striking out just two batters but giving up five hits.
"It's Dunedin. It's Dunedin," Hudson coach Jack Ledbetter said. "You know, I mean, they have some really good players out there."
Ledbetter said he was pleased with his team's overall improvement and show of heart through their 11-18 season, however.
"I'm not going to harp on the mistakes we made," he said. "We played in a pressure situation, and a lot of people are going to make mistakes. Will we make those mistakes next year? I don't think so."
Dunedin will play Clearwater in the final. Clearwater edged by Land O'Lakes 2-1 after losing the two regular-season games.
In the top of the seventh inning, Clearwater's Brandon Baker singled in Mark Morris for the winning run.
Tornadoes starting pitcher Jason Costello threw a complete game as did Land O'Lakes' Rich Neste. "We'd have rather lost the first two game, and have won this one," Gator assistant Tom Carter said. -- Eric Muskatevc
DUNNELLON -- The district's two most reliable arms came through again.
Crystal River's Clayton Trenary tossed a one-hitter to lead the top-seeded Pirates past fifth-seeded South Sumter 9-0 in one semifinal, and Dunnellon's Tommy Boss struck out nine as the second-seeded Tigers beat third-seeded Citrus 3-2 in eight innings in the other.
"We're excited," Crystal River coach Brent Hall said. "We've made the state playoffs, which was our No. 1 goal."
Crystal River (25-4) was led at the plate by Jonathan Runnels, Will Bleakley and Kyle Griffin, who combined to drive in eight runs. Trenary (10-0) has allowed just one hit in his last 12 innings.
In the nightcap, Dunnellon (18-9) needed a little luck to get past Citrus (13-14).
With the score 2-2 in the eighth, Citrus starter Flint Whitelaw, masterful through seven innings, walked Richie Desimone with one out before being victimized by his own error. With runners on first and second, Jarod Harder hit a weak grounder to Whitelaw, who threw high and into the outfield, allowing the winning run to score.
"It was nobody's fault," Citrus coach Mike Taylor said. "That stuff happens. Whitelaw is a tough kid. He wants to get everybody out. He's a fighter."- Keith Niebuhr