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Quistas have another shot

By STEVE LEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2000


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Nicki Clevenger remembers the beating Pasco-Hernando Community College took from Lake City in last year's state final. The second baseman sees a rematch in the near future.

"If we do as well as we're supposed to do, we'll end up facing them," Clevenger said of the defending state champions.

Lake City, last year's national runner-up, is the top seed in the Florida Community College Activities Association State Tournament. The Timberwolves defeated PHCC twice in last year's tourney, 5-2 and 17-2 in the final. Lake City also beat the Quistas 4-2 this season.

Outfielder Emily Mamalou also is eager to play Lake City. Actually, the former Royal Knight just wants to play in the state tourney because she missed last year's with strep throat.

"I was very angry," Mamalou said, adding that she feels this year's team "is a lot stronger."

Not wanting to add fuel to the fire, PHCC coach Tom Ryan said the Quistas should not focus solely on Lake City. He is more concerned with tonight's opening foe, Chipola, and Okaloosa-Walton if PHCC defeats Chipola.

"Anybody can win," Ryan said of the 12 teams vying for two national tournament berths. "This is a high-caliber tournament."

Ryan is counting on 12 returners and the experience of playing in the state tournament to bolster his team's chances in Kissimmee.

"Last year is last year," he said. "We're trying to draw off that year and use it as a good tool for this tournament."

"First place this year; I think we can definitely do it," said Mamalou, adding that finishing second last year "stunk."

PHCC (40-21, 12-4 in the Suncoast Conference) has not played in two weeks but enters the tourney with a four-game winning streak. The Quistas qualified for the playoffs by winning their final game 5-0 over Manatee on April 13.

Ryan tabbed Michelle Spina (18-8, 1.43 ERA) to pitch the opener. That meant Laura Helt (12-6, 1.33 ERA), who played at Citrus and was the Times North Suncoast Player of the Year in 1999, would start the second game in the double-elimination tournament. Also expected to see time on the mound is Ashleigh Hatcher (8-3).

Spina also will be penciled in as the cleanup hitter today. She will follow a trio of .300 hitters: designated hitter Ana Mena (.307), rightfielder Dana Vickery (.370) and shortstop Stacy Guengerich (.335).

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