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Bears armed for Eastside

By BRANT JAMES

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 1, 2001


BROOKSVILLE -- Central coach Gary Buel has prepared for a lot of district tournaments -- five to be exact -- in the last six years.

photo
[Times photo: Kevin White]
With senior ace Patrick Ryan on the mound, "our guys are confident" for the post-season, Central coach Gary Buel says.
That doesn't mean he has a feel for how the Class 4A, District 6 runner-up will do today in the Region 2 quarterfinals.

Buel does know that ace Patrick Ryan is "hungry" for his final post-season, and the coach hopes the value of playing in the Dunedin Easter Tournament will reveal itself when the Bears (14-15) travel to face District 5 champion Gainesville Eastside (15-8).

"Our guys are confident with Patrick on the mound," Buel said. "The question -- as always -- is, Can we score enough runs? But this is where going to places like Dunedin helps out. Now we can go on the road and play someone we're not familiar with and hopefully play well."

The ability to execute will be crucial for Central.

The Bears showed flashes in the district tournament, including in a 3-2 semifinal win over Lecanto, when second baseman Jamie McElfresh threw out the go-ahead run at the plate in the 11th then singled in the decisive run in the bottom of the inning.

Central showed better proficiency bunting and punching the ball to off-fields on the hit-and-run, though some base-running gaffes appeared.

"As long as we put the ball in play well and continue making plays, we should be OK," Buel said. "I haven't said this much, but this group has played harder for me than any I've had."

Gainesville Eastside should display the same aggressive approach, though Buel said he saw little of it Friday when he scouted the District 5 final in Leesburg.

Eastside won the right to play host in the region quarterfinals by beating Palatka (21-8) for its first district title since 1986. Ryan Edwards spun a complete-game one-hitter, struck out 9 and retired 16 of the last 17 batters he faced, then knocked in the winning run.

But today Buel expects to see Rams ace Matt Booker, whom he compares to Pasco's Jesse Wilson.

"He has a mid 80s fastball and decent curve and chamgeup," Buel said.

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