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Title chase intensifies for three county teams

By FRANK PASTOR

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 8, 2001


TAMPA -- Saturday night, seniors Mandy Schuerman, Amanda Smith and Lindsay Ryan played their final game at East Bay.

TAMPA -- Saturday night, seniors Mandy Schuerman, Amanda Smith and Lindsay Ryan played their final game at East Bay.

Wednesday, they will trek into completely unfamiliar territory.

East Bay (27-4-1), a six-time regional tournament qualifier, makes its first-ever final four appearance when it plays Clay (24-9) in the Class 4A state semifinals at 4:30 p.m. at the Auburndale Softball Complex.

"I'm tickled to death," East Bay coach Glenn Rodriguez said.

East Bay is one of three county teams that will travel to Auburndale in search of its first state title.

Chamberlain (30-2-1) will make its second final four appearance. Sickles (22-4) will play in a state semifinal for the third time in the school's four-year history.

One year after losing to eventual state champion Riverview in the region final, East Bay secured its first final four berth with a 3-0 victory over Land O'Lakes in the Class 4A, Region 3 final.

Schuerman outshone Land O'Lakes senior and Pasco-Hernando Community College recruit Ashley Patton in a pitchers' duel that was not decided until East Bay scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.

"If we got one run, I felt we could probably win it, but when we got two runs, I felt really good," Rodriguez said.

Schuerman, who throws a dropball, riseball and curveball -- all at different speeds -- struck out 12 batters while allowing just one hit (Patton's infield single in the seventh), a walk and a hit batsman.

The Florida recruit ran her season strikeout total to 310 and came within two outs of pitching her 12th no-hitter of the season and five outs of her fourth perfect game of the year.

"It's a lot of good things in one night," Schuerman said.

Rodriguez, in his fourth year at East Bay, was an assistant at Bloomingdale when Natalie Decker struck out 305 batters in 1997.

"I thought I'd never be part of that again," he said. "To have (Schuerman) do that is a thrill."

Schuerman also tripled twice and scored a run. Smith, a Polk Community College recruit, and Ryan, who will play at St. Petersburg Community College, each singled in their final home game.

"A 7:30 game, you've got all day long to think about it," Schuerman said. "There are a lot of great memories on this field, and it's over now."

East Bay hopes to create a few more memories before it's done. So do Chamberlain and Sickles.

Chamberlain will play Gonzalez Tate (30-1) in a Class 5A semifinal at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. Sickles (24-8) will meet Miami Sunset at 7:30 on Wednesday in a 6A game.

Chamberlain advanced to the Class 6A state championship game in 1999 before losing 4-2 to Naples Barron Collier. Sickles fell 6-5 to Miami Palmetto in last year's 6A final.

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