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Gators, Bulldogs setting sights on state crowns
By JOHN C. COTEY
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 28, 2000
After a banner season for Pasco County baseball, just two teams remain to carry that banner into the post-season -- Land O'Lakes and Zephyrhills.
"This was our goal," Land O'Lakes coach Calvin Baisley said.
Or at least part of it, as the Gators and Bulldogs will chase the first state baseball titles for the county since Pasco won one in 1957 beginning Tuesday.
First things first. At Gulf tonight, the Gators will meet East Lake in the Class 5A, District 10 final at 7:30 p.m., and over at Zephyrhills, the Bulldogs will host Palm Harbor University at 7 in the 4A-6 final.
Both would like district titles, which ensure home games for Tuesday's regional quarterfinals. But since winner and loser tonight move on, Wednesday's wins were the biggest to date for both programs.
Though the Gators struggled past Ridgewood 10-8 in an error-filled contest, the Bulldogs showed their old form and answered any questions about their less-than-dominant play the last two weeks of the season with a 14-0 rout of Tarpon Springs.
Senior catcher Brooks Boyette said that before the game, he and some teammates were reminiscing -- about the good old days.
"We were asking each other what ever happened to the times when we would 10-run teams and go home after five innings?," Boyette said.
It had been a while since the No. 2-ranked Bulldogs (27-2) had flexed the muscles that vaulted them into the school's first-ever national ranking, as well as created widespread publicity over their assault on the state home run record.
But after whipping the Spongers, it is clear, happy days are here again. "I hope we answered some of the questions," said Mike Stepp, who walked and scored on Kyle Watson's grand slam in a 10-run first. I think we just kind of needed something to play for ... we needed something to get up for and maybe we had gotten a little complacent. But (Wednesday) night we came out pumped. We did what we needed to do and we did it quick."
The game was never in doubt. After the first inning, though, that pesky state home run record was. The Bulldogs cracked three homers in the first inning to get to 56, and added another in the third inning -- Brett Cimorelli's second of the game and 13th of the season -- to get to 57.
Another effort like that and the record of 60, set last year by Merritt Island, could fall tonight.
"I think we started playing with other teams instead of playing at our level," said Boyette, who hit one of two Bulldog grand slams in the first inning. "Now since districts are here, we're coming out really fired up and ready to go."
Graham Taylor (6-1) likely will start tonight for the Bulldogs.
The Gators also came out fired up against the Rams in their semifinal -- maybe too much so.
Six errors, including three by usually reliable Greg Rosenthal at second base, as well as 12 strikeouts by three Ridgewood pitchers -- none of them named Chris Way or Dave Hancox -- nearly foiled the Gator drive. But some gutsy pitching by Derek Thompson and two big innings in which the Gators batted around proved to be enough.
"We just couldn't give poor Derek an easy inning," Baisley said. "God, it was ugly. But we hit the ball."
The Gators will throw Cory Doyne (6-0).
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