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Tornadoes fare well in tourney

By PETE YOUNG

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 29, 2000


On Friday afternoon, June 17, Judd Loveland was taking a nap and had no immediate plans.

By that Monday, he and Clearwater High teammate Chris Garrison were on a plane to Oklahoma to play for a high school all-star team in the Sunbelt Baseball Classic.

Loveland and Garrison, rising seniors who also play for American Legion Post 7, were very late additions to the elite team, and both performed well in helping Team Florida to a 5-3 record and third-place finish in the eight-team tournament.

"It was all of a sudden," Loveland said of the phone call and invitation he got from Brandon coach Greg Parris, the Florida coach. "I just woke up. I was like, "Woah.' I was surprised."

Garrison got the call the same day, and both paid $300 for the plane ticket and were on their way.

Florida opened the tournament June 20 with a loss to Ohio in the last inning, but the game buoyed Loveland's confidence for the rest of the week.

"Their pitcher was a big lefty with a scholarship to Ohio State, so I was intimidated," Loveland said. "But he pitched me the way I like to be pitched, and I got two hits, a single and a home run."

Loveland, a catcher, ended up going 10-for-20 with three home runs in the tournament. Garrison, a left-hander who was 4-3 with a 2.05 ERA for Clearwater this season, also did well, earning a win and two saves.

After the loss to Ohio, Florida lost to Georgia and had its June 21 games rained out. The squad bounced back June 22 to beat Maryland and Arizona, clubbing nine home runs in the 16-8 win over Maryland, before dropping a third game that day to Oklahoma.

Florida beat California and Texas on Friday to complete round robin play with a 4-3 record. Saturday, in a rematch with Ohio in the third-place game, Florida won 7-1.

The performances of Loveland and Garrison are especially impressive considering most of the players in the tournament were recent high school graduates who are college- or professional-bound.

Brandon shortstop Myron Leslie, a South Florida signee and 14th-round major league pick earlier this month, set a tournament record with homers in three consecutive at-bats against Maryland. Gaither's Matt Fisherman set a tournament record with 17 hits.

Loveland, who batted .351 for Clearwater this season, split time at catcher during the tournament with Mike Murray, a first-team all-state selection for Class 2A state champion Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy. Brandon's Joey Watts and Tawan Chilsom and Gaither's Paul Williams also were on the team.

"It was the best week. It was a lot of fun," Loveland said. "The team was just full of great guys, some really good, good guys. It was a great experience."

Correction

Gulfport Post 125 plays in the Legion B league. A different team was named in an article Wednesday.

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