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Dragons stun Dunedin

By JOHN SCHWARB, JEREMY RASMUSSEN, PETE YOUNG, ALEX LYNCH, Times staff

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 2, 2001


DUNEDIN -- It's official: Jefferson is an enigma. But coach Pop Cuesta already knew that coming into Tuesday's Class 4A, Region 3 quarterfinal.

Unfortunately for Dunedin, the Dragons team from a week ago that Cuesta feared was nowhere to be found.

In an improbable upset, Jefferson jumped out early on the Falcons and never looked back, winning 7-3 to advance to the regional semifinals Friday.

The Dragons will host East Bay on Friday, one week after what appeared to be surely their last home game of the season. Leto, seeded last in the district tournament, won at Jefferson to claim the title, forcing the Dragons into what figured to be a near-impossible test against a team ranked No. 1 in 4A and No. 6 nationally by Baseball America.

But Jefferson (17-10) was clearly unfazed in facing senior pitcher Bryan Banks and a powerful Falcons lineup at Dunedin Stadium, breaking out for 12 hits and seven runs.

"This team is amazing," Cuesta said. "We lose in the district finals, then we come out here and play the number one team in the state and swing the bats all over the place. It's a mystery team."

One Dragon who has not been a mystery is pitcher Jason Weintraub, a South Florida signee. Despite a case of the flu that sidelined him for a week, the senior clocked his usual 90 mph on the radar and kept the Falcons off-balance until late in the game. -- JOHN SCHWARB

6A-2: Cougars win

Durant rallied from a 5-1 deficit to defeat Sarasota Riverview 6-5 on John Gawron's bases-loaded single with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. The Cougars will host Stuart Martin County (19-12), a 4-2 winner over Orlando Boone, in a semifinal Friday.

In the bottom of the fourth, Durant (20-6) scored to cut the lead of Riverview (18-12) to 5-2, and a three-run home run by Thad Ford tied it at 5. Steve Lee (4-1) earned the win with 32/3 innings of relief. -- TIMES STAFF

6A-2: Gaither dumped

At Venice, Gaither's perennial run through the region playoffs came to a halting stop Tuesday night as the Cowboys dropped their quarterfinal game 7-2 to Venice. Gaither finished the season 19-9. -- TIMES STAFF

5A-3: Sarasota tops King

TAMPA -- Strikeouts weren't enough for King (18-8) on Tuesday as it bowed out of the regional quarterfinals with a 3-1 loss to Sarasota.

Pitchers Jason Starr and Marcus Causey combined for 12 strikeouts, but the Sailors (15-15) scored twice on passed balls after called third strikes.

In the third inning, after Brad Jones struck out, King catcher Tony Menendez couldn't handle the ball. His throw to first base got out Jones, but the return throw from Cale Crews didn't arrive in time to tag Lucas Sherk at the plate.

The Sailors scored on a similar play in the fourth inning and added an insurance run on Shane Jordan's RBI single in the sixth.

Down 3-0, King (17-9) got on the board in the bottom of the sixth when Josh Johnson scored on Jason Aprile's double to centerfield. -- JEREMY RASMUSSEN

5A-3: Wharton edged

At Charlotte, Wharton (15-11) came into its region quarterfinal against Charlotte with 10 losses and some high hopes but suffered an 8-7 loss at the hands of the Fighting Tarpons. -- TIMES STAFF

5A-2: Plant City alive

At Kissimmee, Plant City kept its best run in 31 years alive when it slipped past Kissimmee Osceola 7-0 Tuesday night. The Raiders (11-15) stunned many when they advanced to their first playoff game in 31 years last week. -- TIMES STAFF

4A-3: East Bay moves on

ST. PETERSBURG -- Before Tuesday, it had been 23 years -- twenty-three -- since East Bay advanced to a regional.

The Indians made the most of it.

Jumping out to a 3-0 lead after two innings and surviving some hairy moments late, upstart East Bay advanced with a 4-2 win at Northeast (13-14).

Despite a lackluster 9-16 record, the Indians will host Friday's semifinal against Jefferson (17-10), a 7-3 winner over No. 1-ranked Dunedin.

"This is huge," East Bay coach Bill Leiby said. "I told the team we would have to play error-free ball, and that's just about what we did."

In the first inning, a single by C.J. Owens, a double by Ryan Van Alstyne and a sacrifice fly by Dizzy Noriega that scored Owens put East Bay up 1-0. The Indians got two more in the second on a single by Tyler Suralis, a three-base throwing error on a bunt by John Fasick and a run-scoring single by Reggie Doby.

Pitchers Van Alstyne (41/3 innings, one earned run) and Dizzy Noriega (22/3 innings, one earned run) protected the lead. Noriega, in a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the bottom of the seventh, allowed just one run, getting the final two outs on a grounder and fly out. -- PETE YOUNG

4A-3: Leto loses 12-0

TAMPA -- Leto's season came to an abrupt end with a 12-0 five-inning loss to Clearwater on Tuesday.

It was a season full of surprises for a Leto (11-16) team that only had two seniors and one junior.

In the end, the youth the Falcons came to depend upon came back to bite them.

Clearwater (17-13) played a sound game fundamentally and rattled Falcons starting pitcher Sergio Perez (4-4), scoring five runs in the first inning.

The Leto defense also gave up four errors that which led directly to five runs. -- ALEX LYNCH

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