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Lions wait with fingers crossed

By STEVE LEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 6, 2001


SAINT LEO -- The worst part for Saint Leo softball coach Christi Wade and Saint Leo baseball coach Ed Stabile is the waiting.

Their teams are on the cusp of qualifying for the NCAA Division II Southern Regionals. The four-team playoff field for softball will be determined May 7 while the baseball field will be set May 13.

"It's kind of hard to sit with your hands crossed and your fingers crossed," Wade said.

"We've just got to wait and hope," Stabile added.

It's no easier for the players, said catcher Erik Shafer (Land O'Lakes). "It's so frustrating," he said. "You don't want the season to end, but then again it's out of your hands."

BASEBALL IS DONE FOR NOW: The Lions finished 33-22, 14-7 in the Sunshine State Conference after winning one of three games in a weekend series against conference leader Tampa.

Saint Leo defeated the No. 1-ranked Spartans 8-6 on Friday before losing Saturday's doubleheader 10-4 and 11-0.

Saint Leo starter Eric Paone (8-7) pitched a complete game Friday to outduel Tampa standout pitcher Charlie Manning (8-2).

Trevor Hall, whose 58 RBI are second on the team to Shafer's 69, drove in three runs in the win. However, the Lions stranded baserunners in five of seven innings and lined into two double plays in the latter game of the doubleheader.

"We played like champs on Friday," Stabile said. "I don't know what happened (Saturday). I'm still trying to figure it out."

LAST SHOT: Saint Leo's softball team had one last chance to influence pollsters by hosting Valdosta State on Tuesday in its season finale.

The Lions (32-18) are coming off a Sunday split with Lynn (a 2-1 win and 2-0 loss) and a doubleheader sweep (2-1 and 6-2) of Barry on Saturday.

Saint Leo's 32-18 record, 18-10 in the SSC (before Tuesday), falls shy of Wade's preseason goal for victories.

"I think we should have done a lot better," Wade said. "We were shooting for 39 or 40 wins."

Saint Leo won 39 games last year and 38 in 1999, but those totals include post-season play.

Record-setting pitcher Desi Croteau (19-12) has recorded 22 strikeouts in the past four games to boost her career total to 932.

Croteau (Land O'Lakes) sought her 103rd win Tuesday, a number that outdistances the next winningest pitcher in school history by a substantial margin. Alice Astling won 67 games from 1991-94.

"It's going to be a big void to fill when she's gone," Wade said of Croteau, one of two graduating seniors. "She's done it all."

Wade was including Croteau's offensive contributions as well. A career .318 hitter, Croteau headed into the final regular-season game with a .314 average and led the Lions in home runs (seven) and RBI (30).

Jamie Martin (Gaither) also will be missed. A versatile player in her two seasons since transferring from Palm Beach Community College, Martin has played centerfield, rightfield, second base and catcher.

"She's been the true definition of a utility player," Wade said.

A .307 hitter, Martin entered the final game tied with Sabrina Price for the team lead in runs scored (29) and was the leader in doubles (nine) and triples (seven).

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