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'Smiley' propels Lancers to victory with arm, bat

Justin Craig throws four scoreless innings and goes 2-for-3 to lead Seminole Presbyterian past Bradenton Christian.

By FRANK PASTOR

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 5, 2001


BRADENTON -- It started midway through the season, after Justin Craig made a couple of errors in practice. The plays were routine, and Craig shrugged them off with a laugh.

"You better stop smiling," coach J.J. Pizzio told the freshman.

Craig wasn't making light of his mistakes. He just deals with adversity the same way he handles most everything else -- by parting his lips and showing his braces.

Ever since that day in practice, Craig's teammates have called him "Smiley."

"Nothing usually gets to me," he said. "I'm always smiling."

In Friday's Class A, Region 3 semifinal, Bradenton Christian didn't get to Craig, either.

Shrugging off a three-run loss earlier in the season, Craig drove in two runs and pitched four shutout innings to lead visiting Seminole Presbyterian to a 10-0 five-inning victory. Seminole Presbyterian (24-8) advanced to the region final for the third time in Pizzio's four seasons.

The Lancers will play host to Fort Myers Evangelical Christian on Tuesday at the field the coach named for his father.

"I would like to win at John J. Pizzio Jr. Field," Pizzio said. "That's what I built it for."

Eight Seminole Presbyterian players reached base, and seven drove in runs.

But the Lancers would not be within one game of the state semifinals at Legends Field without Craig.

Three days after pitching the final four innings of Seminole Presbyterian's 9-7 win over Canterbury, the right-hander struck out two and allowed just four hits. He did not walk a batter.

"He's got probably the biggest heart you could want in a kid," Pizzio said.

After catching for Craig earlier in the game, senior Adam Rogers pitched a scoreless fifth to preserve the victory.

Only two Bradenton Christian runners reached third, and shortstop Chris Phethean threw out both at the plate.

Seminole Presbyterian got all of the runs it needed during a six-run second. The Lancers added a run in the third and three in the fourth.

Craig was at the center of the barrage, going 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI. He has four hits in two games since Pizzio suggested he close his stance.

Joe Vallejo also drove in two runs for Seminole Presbyterian. Tommy Salemy, Phethean, Rogers, Jared DeVirgilis and Eric Perez added RBI for the Lancers.

3A-3: TC advances

At Lemon Bay, Anthony Moscato and Marc Centofante homered and Dennard Span hit an RBI double as Tampa Catholic rallied past Lemon Bay 4-2.

Charles Cleveland earned the complete-game victory, allowing one earned run on three hits, walking one and striking out five.

Tampa Catholic (24-5) will host Tuesday's 3A, Region 3 final against Avon Park.

-- TIMES STAFF

A-3: Temple Heights routed

At Fort Myers, Evangelical defeated Temple Heights 29-5 in a game that was tied at 3 going into the third inning. Then Evangelical's next 11 batters scored.

In the fourth inning, the Sentinels batted around twice, sending 20 men to the plate and scoring 15 runs.

Temple Heights ended its season 4-15. Evangelical (10-12) will play in Tuesday's Class A, Region 3 final at Seminole Presbyterian.

-- TIMES STAFF

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