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Madeira Beach wins Area Tournament title

After getting pounded in its first game, Post 273 earns a state berth.

By PETE YOUNG

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 1, 2000


Following its first game of the American Legion A Southwest Area Tournament, Madeira Beach Post 273 might have been considered the team least likely to win.

After getting blasted Thursday by Sarasota 15-5, Post 273 was on the threshold of a nice weekend at the beach while the other seven teams duked it out for the title. However, Post 273 slipped by Palm Harbor 3-2 and then caught a break when Clearwater Post 7 forfeited.

Suddenly, everything had changed.

Post 273 earned a pair of close wins Saturday then beat St. Petersburg Post 14 twice on Sunday to capture the title.

"This tournament was the first time we've actually been a team and played like a team," Post 273 pitcher T.J. Large said. "We were picking each other up, doing the little things. Give us something to play for, and we'll do it."

"The first game, when we got 10-runned, that got our motors going," said Errol Blumer, who plays third base and pitches.

Post 273 now advances to the double-elimination state tournament on Wednesday in Lakeland.

Though Post 273 was a middling 9-9 in the regular season, the weekend result shouldn't have been considered too surprising. The lineup was stocked with several all-Pinellas County players, including Seminole pitcher Ryan Dixon and Dixie Hollins outfielder Ryan Searage.

Saturday, Post 273 exacted revenge against Sarasota 7-4, and then it surprised Bradenton Post 24, coming from behind late to win 10-9.

"The team chemistry wasn't there (in the regular season), but we had it this weekend," Large said.

Post 273 needed two wins Sunday against Post 14, which had advanced through the winner's bracket with easy wins over New Port Richey Post 79, 17-5, and Post 7, 13-1. A 7-5 win over Bradenton put Post 14 in the final without a loss.

Post 273 was leading Post 14 12-4 in the seventh inning of the first game when rain stopped play and drenched the field in Bradenton.

The teams piled into their cars and drove up to Seminole to finish the first game, which ended 15-4, and to play the second game.

Blumer started the second game and worked into the eighth inning with a 5-2 lead. Post 14 scored twice in the eighth and had two runners on when reliever John Killalea got the third out.

In the ninth, Killalea allowed one baserunner before closing things out for the 5-4 win.

"It was a really well-played game. Madeira Beach played well both games. They're to be commended," said Post 14 coach Joe Martin, whose team received a strong performance in relief from Mike Williams in the title game. "They took it to us both games."

Post 273 will be an underdog at the state tournament as three key players will be missing. Dixon, Killalea and Searage will be participating in a showcase tournament and will miss the legion tournament.

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