Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Baseball region semifinal preview: King flips switch at right time

TAMPA — With 35 years of coaching the King baseball team under his belt, Jim Macaluso has long known there's no magic formula to making a winner.

And that's what has made the Lions' remarkable recent run the most rewarding of Macaluso's coaching career. About a month ago, it all clicked.

The Lions made a run into the elimination round of the Saladino Tournament, they toppled top-seeded Gaither to win the Class 5A-9 district tournament. And after a 3-2 win over Bradenton Manatee, the Lions will host Venice tonight in a Class 5A region semifinal.

"There have been times when we were favorites, but this came out of leftfield," Macaluso said. "Up until about a month ago, we were so up and down. We couldn't get over the hump."

But now the Lions (17-10), winners of five straight, are just one victory away from their first region final berth since 2003. King hasn't been to the state tournament, which is just two victories away, since the Lyndon B. Johnson administration (1964).

The Lions have already far surpassed their win total of the past two years combined (13), but this was the same team that lost to Alonso 10-0 in the second game of the year and was outscored 34-6 in two district losses to Gaither.

But when the Saladino Tournament came around, they learned in losing, falling to Steinbrenner and Alonso in one-run games.

"Those were a couple of tough losses, but after that we thought we could play with anyone," senior shortstop Josciel Veras said. "Now we know we can play with anybody in the state."

Around the same time, the pitching came together. Right-hander Devin Smith (4-1, 2.44 ERA) emerged as a No. 1 starter, and right-hander Brandon Caples (2-1, 3.46) found his way into the No. 2 spot. Former right-handed starter Karlton Knapp (.199 opponent batting average) found success in the middle relief role.

The fielding had come around, too — King had six games with four or more errors in the first 17 games, and none since. A more vocal dugout is the byproduct of that new confidence.

"We're getting really loud in the dugout now," Smith said. "The fans in the stands can hear us. We used to just clap our hands, but now, no matter what, we're always on our feet. We've been the underdogs. Everyone counted us out in the beginning. That kind of fuels us now."

Region semifinals

All games at 7 tonight unless noted

CLASS 6A

Plant at Alonso

The Ravens (23-5) have won 15 of their last 16 games. This will be the fifth time these teams have met, with Alonso winning the last three. In the four previous meetings, Ravens pitchers have posted a 1.30 ERA against Plant (19-10).

CLASS 4A

Jesuit at Lakewood Ranch, 11 a.m. Saturday

The Tigers (26-3) rebounded from a tough district final loss to Jefferson with a 4-3 win over a good Osceola team. Their 1.68 team ERA is eye-opening. Warning for host Lakewood Ranch (13-11): Jesuit actually plays better away from home (10-0).

CLASS 3A

Tampa Catholic at Clearwater Central Catholic

The Crusaders (17-10) appeared to end their skid — they entered the region tournament having lost six of seven — with a 8-0 win at Fort Meade. They'll face a bigger obstacle in CCC (15-7), which has won three of the last four meetings. TC's pitching stability will be key, that's what got them their only victory in the series.

CLASS 5A

Plant City at Armwood

The Hawks (17-9) are playing good baseball at the right time, and they've beaten the Raiders (18-8) twice in their past three meetings, including a 7-4 win in the Class 5A-8 district final. In their three previous meetings, Armwood's Tyler Alexander is 4-for-9 with five RBIs.

Venice at King

The Lions (17-10) have won five straight and have allowed two or fewer earned runs in four of those five games. Venice (13-8) is coming off a 7-3 come-from-behind win over Gaither, in which the Indians scored four runs in the sixth inning.

CLASS A

Sarasota Christian at Cambridge Christian, 4 p.m.

The Lancers (22-4) beat Manatee HEAT 7-1 in the region quarterfinals, a much closer game than they've been accustomed to considering they outscored the opponents 61-10 in their previous four games. Sarasota Christian (19-6) beat Canterbury 8-3. Cambridge outscored Canterbury 36-7 in three meetings.

Baseball region semifinal preview: King flips switch at right time 05/06/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 6, 2010 11:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. U.S. repeats as Solheim Cup champion

    Golf

    WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Lexi Thompson set the tone by rallying from four holes down. The rest of the Americans took it from there and restored their dominance in the Solheim Cup

    Lexi Thompson, left, comes back from four holes down to halve the day’s first singles match with Europe’s Anna Nordqvist to set the tone for the United States.
  2. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  3. Bucs journal: Demar Dotson (mild groin strain) expected back for opener

    Bucs

    TAMPA — The Bucs got good news Sunday on starting right tackle Demar Dotson, whose MRI exam showed only a mild right groin sprain and who should be back at practice next week.

    Tackle Demar Dotson has only a mild groin strain.
  4. Bucs counting on better health creating better pass rush

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Ask Bucs coaches about the improved depth and health of their defensive line, and they'll look around for a piece of wood to knock on.

    Retired All-Pro defensive end  Simeon Rice, right, the last Buc to have double-digit sacks in a season,  works with defensive end Ryan Russell, who last season was promoted from the practice squad for the second half of the year as injuries piled up. He is competing for a backup job this year.
  5. Rays journal: Jake Faria heads to DL with left abdominal strain

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Jacob Faria made the trek he didn't want to take after his last start. It was to the trainer's room. The pain in his left abdominal went from nagging to an issue during his start that night in Toronto.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jacob Faria (34) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 4, 2017.