Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Baseball coach's gamble pays off in big game

SEFFNER — Seffner Christian baseball coach Jim Self rolled the dice Tuesday.

In preparing for the Crusaders' 1A region quarterfinal, Self scrolled through his mental Rolodex and decided the team's No. 3 pitcher would start the team's biggest game of the season. It was win and keep playing or lose and go home.

"I knew it was somewhat of a gamble," Self said. "But it was time for some others to step up."

Self hoped to save his two top starters for a potential matchup against Cambridge in the region semifinals. But then Bayshore Christian, a team the Crusaders thumped 11-2 earlier in the season, built a 7-1 sixth-inning lead Tuesday, and things weren't looking so good.

"We have a comfort level with (our top two starters) on the mound," Self said. "We had to get out of that."

And what better time than Tuesday. The Crusaders mounted a stirring rally, putting runners on second and third with two outs in the seventh and trailing by one.

Robert Bull fell behind in the count 0-2, but he battled back and eventually lined the game-winning hit up the middle to send the Crusaders into the second round of the playoffs today against Cambridge.

The 8-7 win made school history: It was the program's first playoff victory since joining the Florida High School Athletics Association.

"I was nervous, but at the same time knew we could do it all along," cleanup hitter Ben Cock said. "It took us a little to get going, but we got rolling toward the end."

Bull said he was so caught up in the dramatic moment that he wasn't even aware the Crusaders were a strike away from seeing their season end.

"I honestly don't remember the count," Bull said. "I just knew I didn't want to make the last out and end this."

Cock, who was intentionally walked before Bull's big hit, said he had all faith in the world in his team and Bull.

"When I went up (to the plate), Robert said, 'Don't walk,' " Cock said. "But then he smiled, so I knew he was kidding. Then he just came up so big."

For the most part, the Crusaders' bats were quiet through the first five innings. But once the rally began — Seffner Christian scored three in the sixth before adding four in the seventh — Self said he saw his team begin to believe in itself.

"I hate to say it, but sometimes we don't think we can win unless our top two pitchers are on the mound," he said. "I challenged them today and when we got things started in the sixth, you could see them in the dugout become a different team."

And Self believes the Crusaders' burgeoning confidence stems from a demanding schedule. Seffner Christian went 16-7 during the regular season, but the so-so record can be attributed to playing the likes of Tampa Prep, Bishop McLaughlin and Canterbury.

"I wanted to play the toughest schedule we could," Self said. "These kids have been battle tested."

That will be on the line again tonight when the Crusaders venture into uncharted territory — the second round of the playoffs. Seffner Christian will have its hands full today at 4 p.m. against a visiting Cambridge team that beat the Crusaders 13-3 on April 14.

"We know they have a good team, and we know who they'll pitch," Self said. "But the win (Tuesday), I think, gave our team some serious confidence and was a true momentum builder."

Baseball coach's gamble pays off in big game 05/01/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 1:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Dodgers close in on World Series with 6-1 win over Cubs


    CHICAGO — Yu Darvish pitched into the seventh inning, Chris Taylor homered again and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 on Tuesday night to open a commanding 3-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

    Los Angeles Dodgers' Chris Taylor hits a home run Tuesday during the third inning of Game 3 of baseball's National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs. [Associated Press]
  2. Peter Budaj, Lightning lose to Devils in shootout; Nikita Kucherov scores

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — For Peter Budaj, Tuesday's season debut had a shaky start.

    The Lightning’s Vladislav Namestnikov, right, battles Damon Severson for the puck.
  3. Mother's testimony about toddler's death brings judge to tears


    TAMPA — Nayashia Williams woke up early on May 7, 2014, to the sound of her daughter calling for her. It was the last time the young mother's mornings would begin with a summons from Myla Presley, who couldn't yet climb over the mesh fencing around the playpen she used as a bed.

    Deandre Gilmore looks towards the gallery Tuesday in a Tampa courtroom. Gilmore is accused of killing the 19 month-old daughter of his girlfriend in 2014. He said the child fell while he was giving her a bath. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  4. Speakers: Getting tough can't be only response to teen car thefts


    ST. PETERSBURG — Bob Dillinger remembers coming to Pinellas County as a legal intern in 1975. There were five major poverty zones in St. Petersburg.

    Wengay Newton, Florida House of Representatives (in front, in center), talks as a panelist to a packed room during a community forum on "Reclaiming our Youth: Is Juvenile Justice a Reality?" at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Museum in St. Petersburg Wednesday evening (10/17/17). The event was presented by the Fred G. Minnis, Sr. Bar Association. Community leaders discussed the ongoing auto theft epidemic among Pinellas youth.
  5. Internal White House documents allege manufacturing decline increases abortions, infertility and spousal abuse


    White House officials working on trade policy were alarmed last month when a top adviser to President Donald Trump circulated a two-page document that alleged a weakened manufacturing sector leads to an increase in abortion, spousal abuse, divorce and infertility, two people familiar with the matter told the …