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Today’s games

By MIKE READLING and PETE YOUNG

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 18, 2001


Class 5A

Seminole (19-10) vs. Gonzalez Tate (28-5), 8

PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS: Seminole -- T.J. Large, senior right-hander (11-0, 67 innings, 1.25 ERA, 47 hits, 27 walks, 84 strikeouts). Tate -- Rodney Story, senior left-hander (12-0, 821/3 innings, 0.51 ERA, 44 hits, 15 walks, 101 strikeouts).

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Seminole -- Beat Gulf 11-1, Punta Gorda Charlotte 8-3 and Countryside 13-3. Tate -- Beat Tallahassee Leon 3-0, Jacksonville Wolfson 6-0 and Panama City Bay 1-0.

THE X-FACTORS: Seminole -- Senior first baseman Casey Kotchman (.578 on-base average, .733 slugging average) is as disciplined and polished a high school player as you'll see. Tate -- Senior shortstop Bo Brown leads the Aggies with 25 RBI and 11 extra-base hits.

THE SKINNY: The Warhawks are unbeaten on the field, having won 26 of 29 games by four or more runs and 14 of 29 by 10 or more. The No. 5-ranked Aggies have won six state titles, most recently in 1998. Tate has five shutouts in its past six games and has limited 23 of 33 opponents to one run or less.

Lakeland (30-2) vs. Fort Lauderdale Aquinas (29-4), 1

PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS: Lakeland -- Ryan Cahalan, senior right-hander (12-0, 692/3 innings, 0.80 ERA, 72 strikeouts) or junior left-hander Tommy Baumgardner (10-0, 72 innings, 1.46 ERA, 62 strikeouts). Aquinas -- Chris Niesel, senior right-hander (12-0, 71 innings, 0.39 ERA, 38 hits, 12 walks, 117 strikeouts).

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Lakeland -- Beat Groveland South Lake 11-1, Merritt Island 4-3 and Sanford Seminole 2-1. Aquinas -- Beat Miramar 13-0, Fort Myers Cypress Lake 4-3 and Davie Nova 2-0.

THE X-FACTORS: Lakeland -- Senior shortstop Steven Pearce is batting .411 with 21 extra-base hits and 36 RBI. Aquinas -- Junior infielder Tyler Greene is batting .510 with 51 hits.

THE SKINNY: This is the tournament's best final four, featuring four of the top five teams in the state poll. Top-ranked Merritt Island was beaten 4-3 by No. 3 Lakeland in a region semifinal. The Dreadnaughts advanced out of the district for only the second time since 1960. No. 2 Aquinas has six players with more than 20 RBI.

CLASS 6A

Lake Mary (27-6) vs. WPB Wellington (25-9), 10

PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS: Lake Mary -- Trevor Berryhill (5-1, 52 innings, 2.56 ERA, 54 strikeouts). Wellington -- Billy Simon (9-4, 90 innings, 1.09 ERA, 117 strikeouts).

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Lake Mary -- Beat Apopka 5-2, Tallahassee Lincoln 5-4 and Lynn Haven Mosley 9-0. Wellington -- Beat Olympic Heights 3-0, Plantation 2-1 and Cooper City 4-2.

THE X-FACTORS: Lake Mary -- Junior Kyle Bono comes into the tournament with a team-high .395 average. Bono has one home run and 13 RBI. Wellington -- The Wolverines are led by Chuck Jeroloman and his .369 average. Jeroloman also has 22 RBI and has legged out six doubles and four triples. THE SKINNY: Simon is one of the best pitchers in south Florida, not to mention one of the tallest at 6 feet 7. He is a strikeout pitcher who has the ability to take over a game. Wellington won the title in 1999 and was runner-up last year. That experience could provide a comfort zone and be the difference.

* * *

Venice (23-10) vs. Hialeah (23-7), 5

PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS: Venice -- Arnold Hughley (9-2, 73 innings, 0.58 ERA, 89 strikeouts). Hialeah -- Camilio Vazquez (7-3, 501/3 innings, 1.95 ERA, 86 strikeouts).

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Venice -- Beat Gaither 7-2, Winter Park 1-0 and Durant 7-1. Hialeah -- Beat Miami Goleman 2-1, Miami Southridge 8-4 and Miami Beach 3-0.

THE X-FACTORS: Venice -- Brian LaNinfa carries a .407 average and has accounted for 44 runs, driving in 18 and scoring 26. Hialeah -- Alex Rodriguez leads the Thoroughbreds with a .519 average and 33 RBI. The senior third baseman has one home run but has belted 40 hits to lead Hialeah. THE SKINNY: This is Hialeah's sixth appearance since 1995. The Thoroughbreds have never played in a final, though. Venice is making its fourth consecutive appearance, earning one runner-up finish along the way. Venice has a big roster but only seven players have scored more than 10 runs. Hialeah has 10. Look for the tougher Orlando-area schedule to help Lake Mary.

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