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Bulldog star doubtful for regional semifinal

Brett Cimorelli will have surgery Friday after being hit in the face by a pitch in Tuesday's quarterfinal.

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2000


ZEPHYRHILLS -- His face was swollen, and there was a postage stamp-sized bruise just under his left eye Wednesday, but Zephyrhills senior pitcher Brett Cimorelli insisted it wasn't as bad as it looked.

But it might be bad enough to keep him out of the Bulldogs' biggest game of the year.

The senior pitcher will undergo surgery at 7 a.m. Friday at East Pasco Medical Center to repair three cheek bones that were broken when he was hit by a pitch in a quarterfinal game Tuesday. He said he doesn't expect to play later that night in Zephyrhills' Class 4A, Region 2 semifinal game against Winter Haven.

"More than likely, he won't play," said Zephyrhills coach Bruce Cimorelli, Brett's father.

Brett leads the Bulldogs (29-2) with a 9-0 record, a 0.84 ERA and 57 strikeouts. He's just as valuable at the plate, where he's batting .415 with 14 home runs and 50 RBI.

"I don't know why it had to happen now. But everything happens for a reason, and you've just got to keep on going," said Brett, who expects to return should Zephyrhills advance to the regional championship game Tuesday. "Hopefully, we can win Friday so I can play Tuesday."

The injury happened while Brett was at bat with one ball and two strikes in the sixth inning of Tuesday's quarterfinal game against North Marion. Colts relief pitcher Bret Mills threw a fastball too high and too tight for Brett to avoid.

"I thought he might be throwing a slider or something," he said. "I didn't really know what the pitch was, so I stayed in there as long as I could in case it broke. It didn't break, and it hit me right in the face. I tried to turn, but it just hit me square in the face."

Brett fell to the ground, got up after a couple of minutes and by game's end had a bag of ice pressed against his face.

He didn't get home from the hospital until 2 a.m. and missed school Wednesday to go to the doctor, where he was told the injury required surgery.

"I'm not really scared about it," Brett said. "The procedure is pretty basic and everything. Nothing dangerous."

He plans to dress for Friday's game and definitely play in a possible regional championship game Tuesday.

"I don't know if I'm going to be able to bat, but if I do, I'm probably going to have to wear some protection over it," he said.

Bruce said junior Russell Hartley may move into the starting lineup because of his son's injury.

Ironically, Bruce suffered a similar type of injury while playing for a Cincinnati Reds farm team in 1981. He was hit in the cheek with a fastball and had to have surgery that wired the bones together.

"We've come so far and have worked so hard. You hate to lose one of your main players," Bruce said. "We've got kids that I hope will step in. Injuries are part of the season.

"We've been lucky and fortunate not to have any until now."

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