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A little nearsightedness not all bad for Seminole

By PETE YOUNG

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 1, 2001


No way. Absolutely not. Not this year. Seminole is not looking ahead.

Seminole is unbeaten in 27 games and ranked No. 1 in the nation by Baseball America, and Gulf is 15-15. But there are two big reasons the Warhawks will not overlook the Buccaneers in today's 5A, Region 3 quarterfinal:

1) Punta Gorda Charlotte and 2) St. Petersburg.

Charlotte stunned Seminole in the region quarterfinal last year, and last week in the district semifinal against St. Petersburg the Warhawks received a reminder about focusing on each game. After beating the Green Devils three times in the regular season -- the last a 10-run rule game -- Seminole squeaked past for a 3-2 win.

The Warhawks won't look past Gulf -- even though a juicy rematch with Charlotte looms in the semifinal.

"That was horrible," Seminole's T.J. Large said of the St. Petersburg game. "It opened our eyes." Leading the way for the Warhawks have been pitchers Large (1.58 ERA, 63 strikeouts in 53 innings) and John Killalea, who are both 9-0 and have stepped up in the absence of ace Ryan Dixon. Dixon pitched briefly in February but was limited to designated hitter duty in March because of a shoulder injury. A torn labrum was discovered in early April, and surgery ended his season.

The top hitters have been Nos. 3 and 4 batters Casey Kotchman (.406 average) and Bobby Wilson (.436 average). And the Warhawks expect to get second baseman Jon Riggleman back today from a hamstring injury which has kept him off the field most of the season.

Seminole (17-10 with 10 forfeit losses) got some measure of revenge against Charlotte, ranked No. 6 in the state poll, in an 11-5 regular-season win. However, to oust Charlotte from the state playoffs would be ... would be looking ahead, a major no-no.

"We really haven't talked about it. They know what the situation is: Lose and go home," Seminole coach Scott Miller said Monday. "We had a nice, fun practice today. ... This is a heady group. They're ready to go."

Dunedin (25-2) also is hoping to exorcise a region quarterfinal demon. The Falcons were hot entering the 2000 region but were beaten by Armwood pitcher Mike Pete in a 2-0 loss.

This year, Jefferson ace Jason Weintraub, a South Florida signee with a 90-mph fastball, is hoping to reprise Pete's role. Dunedin, ranked No. 1 in 4A and No. 6 nationally by Baseball America, is hoping to have learned from last season. The Falcons' first three hitters -- Jeremy Bellotti, Kenny Holmberg and Brian Dopirak -- have been as good as any Nos. 1, 2, 3 in the area. Bellotti tripled in the district semifinal and final, and Holmberg had a pair of doubles in the 8-5 title win over Clearwater.

Ten Pinellas County teams play today in region quarterfinals. Nine of the 10 play at home or have a drive of less than an hour. The exception is Dixie Hollins, which must travel three hours to Sebring.

If records are any indication, it could be a good day for county schools. Eight of the 10 Pinellas teams have better winning percentages than their opponents.

Baseball regional quarterfinals

CLASS 5A, REGION 3

Countryside at Ridgewood

WHEN: 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: 7650 Orchid Lake Road, New Port Richey

THE SKINNY: The Cougars (17-11) got a 14-strikeout performance from ace left-hander Mike White (6-1) in the district semifinal against Pinellas Park, and they hope he can put forth a similar effort today. Ridgewood (21-9) was a deceptive No. 5 seed in its district and is not a surprise team. Rams starting pitcher Dave Hancox threw a no-hitter in the district tournament.

MOVING ON: The Cougars would travel to King (17-8) or Sarasota (14-15).

* * *

CLASS 5A, REGION 3

Gulf at Seminole

WHEN: 7:30 p.m.

THE SKINNY: After surviving a testy 3-2 district semifinal against St. Petersburg, Seminole relaxed in the title game and pummeled Countryside. The upstart Buccaneers (15-15), who stunned Palm Harbor U. in a district semifinal, are overmatched in the talent department. John Killalea and Errol Blumer each had three hits and three RBI for Seminole (17-10 with 10 forfeits) against Countryside.

MOVING ON: The Warhawks would host Wharton (15-10) or travel to Sarasota (22-6).

* * *

CLASS 4A, REGION 3

Jefferson at Dunedin

WHEN: 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Dunedin Stadium

THE SKINNY: Like last year, Dunedin (25-2) has had a phenomenal regular season and appears poised to make a state run. Armwood's Mike Pete stifled the Falcons 2-0 in the region quarterfinal last season, however, and Jason Weintraub (7-3, sub-1.00 ERA, school-record 110 strikeouts), a South Florida signee and anticipated high draft pick, hopes to do the same this year for Jefferson (16-10).

MOVING ON: The Falcons would travel to Northeast (13-13) or host East Bay.

* * *

CLASS 4A, REGION 3

East Bay at Northeast

WHEN: 4 p.m.

THE SKINNY: The Vikings captured the district with a minor miracle, coming back from a 3-1 seventh-inning deficit and then near-certain defeat in the eighth to beat Dixie Hollins in 11 innings. The reward? A home game against sub-.500 East Bay instead of a trip to Sebring. Freshman Scott Moeller is the likely starter for Northeast (13-13). Jason Leonard, Ray Loeser and Rich Tribou have sparked the offense.

MOVING ON: The Vikings would host Dunedin or Jefferson.

* * *

CLASS 4A, REGION 3

Dixie Hollins at Sebring

WHEN: 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: 3514 Kenilworth Blvd., Sebring

THE SKINNY: The Rebels (15-10) have been kicking themselves all weekend for not finishing off Northeast in the 4A-11 title game. As a result, Dixie will make the approximately three-hour drive to play the District 12 champion Blue Streaks. Brandon Huskins (8-4, 1.69 ERA, 80 strikeouts, 12 walks) should start for Dixie. Joe Castagner (.369, 4 home runs, 12 doubles, 27 RBI) and Ryan Searage (16 stolen bases) lead the Dixie attack.

MOVING ON: The Rebels would travel to Leto (11-15) or host Clearwater (16-13).

* * *

CLASS 4A, REGION 3

Clearwater at Leto

WHEN: 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: 4409 W. Sligh Ave., Tampa

THE SKINNY: The Tornadoes knocked off then No. 9-ranked Land O'Lakes 2-1 in the 4A-9 semifinal. Senior left-hander Jason Costello went the distance against the Gators and is the likely starter today against sub-.500 Leto, which was the shocking winner of 4A-10. Judd Loveland, Brandon Baker and Mike Krentzman lead the offense, and infielders Ryan Graham and Matt Coticchio made all-tournament at Dunedin's Easter Tournament.

MOVING ON: The Tornadoes would travel to Dixie Hollins or Sebring.

* * *

CLASS 2A, REGION 3

Shorecrest at Berkeley Prep

WHEN: 7 p.m.

WHERE: 4811 Kelly Rd., Tampa

THE SKINNY: The Chargers (18-10) have beaten Berkeley twice this season, both times by two runs, once in extra innings, so these teams (which were in the same district last season) know each other well. Ryan Heacox (10-1) has been superlative on the mound for Shorecrest and should start today. Senior infielder/outfielder/pitcher Mike Giroud and junior catcher Zach Wendkos have been batting over .400 all season.

MOVING ON: The Chargers would host Belle Glade Glades Day (15-8) or travel to Winter Park Trinity Prep (23-2).

* * *

CLASS 2A, REGION 3

Fort Meade at Northside Christian

WHEN: 7:30 p.m.

THE SKINNY: The No. 5-ranked Mustangs (24-3) are on target for a region semifinal showdown with No. 2 West Palm Beach King's Academy, but first must get past Fort Meade (21-9), a quality team upset by Berkeley Prep in the district final. Andy Park (5-0) will start with David Scott (4-0) in relief. Lastings Milledge (.543 avg., 50 hits), Steve Doetsch (8 home runs, 38 RBI) and Park (46 RBI) pace the offense.

MOVING ON: The Mustangs would host King's Academy (25-4) or Orlando Lake Highland Prep (19-10).

* * *

CLASS A, REGION 3

Canterbury at Seminole Presbyterian

WHEN: 7 p.m.

WHERE: Doc Nance Field, Tampa

THE SKINNY: The Crusaders (16-4) were cruising -- 10 consecutive wins -- before getting upended 5-3 by Indian Rocks Christian for the district title. The No. 9-ranked Lancers (21-7) have been in the state poll much of the year and feature Times 2000 Hillsborough County Player of the Year Adam Rogers. Marc Sawyer (.566) leads the Canterbury offense, and Warren Wood (8-1) is expected to start.

MOVING ON: The Crusaders would travel to Bradenton Christian (19-5) or Fort Myers Canterbury (6-10).

* * *

CLASS A, REGION 3

Temple Heights at Indian Rocks Christian

WHEN: 4 p.m.

WHERE: Naimoli Complex, 7901 30th Ave. N, St. Petersburg

THE SKINNY: A region semifinal berth looks promising if IRC plays an average game, because Temple Heights is, well, very beatable, as its 3-14 record indicates. IRC coach D.J. Springman has guided a remarkable turnaround from 1-21 last season to 14-11 and district champs. Senior Arren Swift (4-0) will start for the Golden Eagles. Kevin Wright (.406, 4 home runs) has been IRC's top hitter.

MOVING ON: The Golden Eagles would travel to Fort Myers Evangelical Christian (8-12) or host Sarasota Christian (7-10). -- Compiled by Pete Young.

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