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Paperwork completed, West Pasco eyes titles

One year after not competing, five teams will attempt to win Dixie state championships.

By JOHN C. COTEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 29, 2000


Kelly Skulas has a message for the other teams competing this week at the Dixie softball state tournament at the Jordan Softball Complex in Zephyrhills. We're baaaaaaack.

After failing to file the paperwork in time last year, causing all of West Pasco's Dixie teams to be ineligible for the state tournament and any other resulting post-season play, the board of the West Pasco Girls Softball Association was removed by irate parents.

One of those parents, Skulas, is the president of the new board of directors. Her most important mission was completed in plenty of time this year. The franchise papers were filed with the national chapter in plenty of time for post-season play.

Combined with a run of success on the field by the league's all-star teams, the WPGSA will be represented by five teams in Zephyrhills. "The kids were really disappointed last year," Skulas said. "They didn't understand (the mistakes) were all grown-up things.

"This year, we have a lot of new people that are involved, and the girls are very, very excited to be going to state. The younger girls don't even remember two years ago (when we last played at state). So yes, it definitely feels like we're back."

The WPGSA has teams in each division: Darlings (8-under), Angels (9-10), Ponytails (11-12), Belles (13-15) and Debs (16-18).

For the Darlings and Angels, the season will end in Zephyrhills, making this their biggest championship. The Ponytails winner advances to the Dixie League World Series in Denison, Texas. The Belles are playing to advance to their World Series in Lawrenceville, Va., and the Debs World Series will be held in Muscle Shoals, Ala. "I think what makes this year more special is that we didn't have this opportunity last year," said Carl Guercio, the Belles coach.

The WPGSA has a long and successful history. Though it hasn't won a World Series title since the Belles won their third in a row in 1983 (the only other title was won by the Ponytails in 1980), it has won many state titles.

The outlook is for more. Skulas, who coaches the pitching-rich Angels, said she expected good things this year, but the team's success in Brooksville last week at the district championships exceeded her expectations.

"Historically, our best competition has been against them," Skulas said. "It was best-of-three up there, but we swept them all out in two games. We really think we can win all five state championships."

In Brooksville, the Belles defeated the defending world champions twice. Stefanie Simon, who played for the River Ridge varsity team this spring, pitched a complete game in a 6-4 win in the opener, and Kari Wiedinger won the second with a strong relief effort as the Belles rallied from a 4-0 deficit and Kristina Copus hit a three-run home run in the 16-7 win.

Citing the flawless fielding of first baseman Nicchole Orlando and the leadoff hitting of Nicole Guercio, along with Simon, Wiedinger, Copps and others, coach Guercio said he believes his team will do well.

"I think the strength of our team this year is it's a team," he said. "Stefanie's been to three World Series. The strength of our team is that we are a true team. Even our subs coming off the bench know what their jobs are. I don't think we have as many standout players as we've had in the past, but it's really been a team-type of effort.

"We're going into the tournament expecting to win it."

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