By PETE YOUNG
© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 25, 2001
The East Lake American Legion B team, after winning its first two games, sustained back-to-back, last-inning defeats Sunday and was eliminated from the state tournament in DeLand.
The Southwest Area champion, East Lake opened the eight-team, double-elimination tournament Friday with an 8-1 win over Bartow, and Saturday it defeated Oviedo 7-6 in eight innings.
Left-hander Matt Cresta went 7-plus innings against Oviedo despite a blister on his pitching hand that prevented him from throwing any breaking balls, coach Randy Fierbaugh said.
Tied with Oviedo at 6 after seven innings, East Lake's Bill Manion doubled in the top of the eighth, was sacrificed to third and scored on a single by Mike Guidi.
In the bottom of the eighth, with the tying run at third, reliever Pete Ganci got the final two outs on a popup and strikeout to preserve the win.
Sunday against North Tampa Post 334, a team comprised primarily of players from King High, East Lake came up just short in a pair of games and was knocked out one game before the final. In the first game, North Tampa scored twice in the top of the seventh to break a 4-4 tie and win 6-4.
By Sunday's second game, East Lake was playing with a severely depleted roster: three players were at a showcase camp; two left the night before for family vacations; Ganci injured an ankle after pitching the first four innings of the previous game and couldn't play; and Guidi had become ill and couldn't play.
However, East Lake received a boost when ace right-hander Mike Billek returned from a showcase at Clemson in time to start the second game against North Tampa, and East Lake took a 3-0 lead early.
North Tampa tied it in the bottom of the third inning, and it was still knotted at 3 entering the bottom of the seventh. With one out, North Tampa advanced a runner to third and executed a suicide squeeze for the win.
"We had our opportunities but just couldn't bring anyone in," Fierbaugh said.
Chris Coghlin, Nick Newsted and Tyler Huegel were East Lake's leading hitters during the weekend.
"Yeah, we're disappointed, but at the same time, they did a heck of a job," Fierbaugh said. "All things considered, we did really well."
North Tampa defeated Perry 3-2 on Monday to capture the title.