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SPJC's milestone season ends in disappointment


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 20, 2001

St. Petersburg Junior College entered the Florida Junior College state tournament last weekend in Kissimmee as the top seed. It left with a third-place finish.

The Trojans, hoping to capture the school's first state championship, needed ninth-inning heroics to defeat Daytona Beach CC and Okaloosa-Walton CC. But an 8-4 loss to Chipola in the winner's bracket final put SPJC in the loser's bracket.

Then came a loss to Miami-Dade Saturday morning. Miami-Dade, which battled out of the loser's bracket, defeated Chipola for the state championship.

The Trojans end their season 38-11, the most wins in school history

"We had a great season, make no mistake about that," SPJC coach Dave Pano said. "But we are not pleased with a third-place finish."

Pano also was not pleased with the way the tournament was set up.

He felt his team was punished for staying in the winner's bracket. SPJC had to play a night game against Chipola on Friday, then a morning game against Miami-Dade on Saturday.

"Miami-Dade lost its first game and got to play day games the rest of the way," Pano said. "It's not an excuse. That's what happened to us last year. It just seems like the team that keeps winning should be rewarded."

Last season, SPJC lost in the first round but made it to the final game before losing to Florida Community College. This was the Trojans' third straight state tournament appearance.

SPJC was loaded with talent. Pano said pitchers Maximo "Paco" Reyes, Mike Roga and Carrington Fisk should be drafted in the first 20 rounds of Major League Baseball's June draft. Reyes was 11-1 during the regular season.

Shortstop Erick Monzon, third baseman Mike Cox and infielder Julian Davis are all likely to be drafted. Additionally, Pano said former Pinellas Park pitcher Nick Massett could be drafted but likely will opt for a scholarship to the University of Texas.

The future also looks bright for SPJC, which has been able to reload under Pano. While his recruiting is far from over, Pano said he already has a number of local players committed to SPJC.

Seminole catcher Bobby Wilson, Tampa Riverview pitcher/infielder Roberto Martinez, Clearwater pitcher Jason Costello and Dunedin players Kenny Holmberg, Matt Cheeks and Bryan Banks have all orally committed.

Pano said he also has players from Miami, Massachusetts and New Hampshire committed to play in St. Petersburg next year.

"This could be the best recruiting class we've had," Pano said. "I'm really happy with this group so far.

"Some of them may get drafted and never play here, you never know. But if we get them to come here we're going to be good again next season."

ECKERD TENNIS: The Tritons completed their best season ever by advancing to the final eight at the NCAA Division II national tournament in Pensacola on May 11-13.

Eckerd wiped out Abilene Christian 8-0 in the first round, but ran into highly ranked Brigham Young-Hawaii in the second round. The Tritons fell 5-3.

Eckerd ends its season 18-5. Marton Balla, Sebastian Libortino, Jens Garberding and Glen Allsop all played big roles this season. Balla was named to the Sunshine State Conference first team.

ECKERD BASEBALL: The Tritons were 21-30, 5-16 in the Sunshine State Conference. Tampa won the regular season title at 16-4.

Junior third baseman Justin Loop hit .357 with 11 doubles, six home runs and 52 RBI. Loop was an SSC honorable mention selection.

Outfielder/designated hitter Steve Williams hit .368 in 155 at bats. Outfielder Josh Beauregard hit .356 with five home runs.

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