By SCOTT PURKS
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 16, 2001
TAMPA -- A freshman will start on the mound for Tampa Catholic in today's Class 3A state semifinal, and no Crusader is batting an eye.
Why would they? The freshman is Charles Cleveland, who TC coach Chuck Yingling called, "the gutsiest player in the world," after Cleveland won a 12-inning, 5-4 regional final over Avon Park.
Yingling also is quick to say Cleveland has one of the best catchers, Marc Centofante, and best defenses working for him.
"When we looked at it, there was no doubt about how we were going to do it," Yingling said. "It was an easy decision."
Through the second half of the season, TC's ace was Tony Moscato, who threw a no-hitter in the 5-0 first-round win over Frostproof.
Yingling said saving Moscato has nothing to do with who is the No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher. And the best part is his players don't mind.
Moscato certainly doesn't.
"Playing second base at Legends Field in that game is fine with me," said Moscato, who has a .366 average with 23 RBI and 24 runs scored. "I get to play, and I get to hit on that stage."
Plus if TC wins, Moscato will be on the mound with a chance to win TC's ninth state title, second-most in state history.
Five TC players learned what it's like being at the state tournament in 1999. That year, Moscato, Josh Shirk, Robert Valiente and Chad Leon either played or watched TC lose 1-0 to Marianna -- the same team the Crusaders take on at 1 p.m. today.
Centofante, meanwhile, was a designated hitter for Sickles, which lost 6-3 to Venice in that year's semifinal.
"This time, I'm going in with a lot more confidence," Centofante said. "For that matter, this team has 100 times more confidence than our team at Sickles had. I think that's because everyone on this team played together for years and years in Little League and Pony League."
Yingling, who in the past six years has brought TC back into prominence with five post-season appearances (including a state title in 1996), said this year's team has one thing over his past teams: "They love to play the game more than any kids I've been around.
"These guys don't get down after a tough loss. They don't get too high after a big win. No matter what happens, they just want to come to the ballpark the next day and play. They just want to do whatever it takes to win, and that is the bottom line."