By TERRY JONES
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 10, 2001
AUBURNDALE -- Green Cove Springs Clay spooked East Bay early and erased the Indians' hopes of a state championship by winning 4-1 in the Class 4A semifinals.
Losing pitcher Mandy Schuerman gave up only two hits, but all of Clay's runs were unearned. "Schuerman is a phenomenal pitcher," Clay coach Matt Lewis said. "Any pitcher coming into this level of play with over 300 strikeouts is great.
"But we figured with all of those strikeouts, all we had to do was put the bat on the ball and their defense would make mistakes. They did, and we won."
In the first inning, the Blue Devils scored on a hit and two of the Indians' six errors.
Indians shortstop Nikki Henderson allowed Ashley Black to reach first with a wild throw. Black went to second on a sacrifice bunt, went to third on a passed ball and scored on a single by Lisa Dronkers.
East Bay's defense continued to unravel in the fourth, allowing three runs on two errors. Rightfielder Stephanie Smith had the first error, bobbling the ball long enough to allow Dronkers to score from second base.
Kristen Ervin came in from third and Hudgins from second on an errant throw by catcher Amanda Smith, giving the Blue Devils a 4-1 lead. Schuerman, who entered the game with 0.40 ERA and 310 strikeouts, struck out nine. She finished with 319 strikeouts for the season, a Hillsborough County record.
"We still had a great season," Schuerman said. "Every team can have a bad day. It's just too bad we had ours at the state tournament."
Cindy Hudgins recorded the win for Clay, giving up four hits. Her defense backed her up by making only two errors.
"I don't think they beat us because they are a better team than us," East Bay coach Glenn Rodriguez said.
"We helped them with so many errors plus nine popups. We only lose three seniors, so we should do well next year. That is if we find a pitcher. Mandy is irreplaceable."