Make us your home page

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


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).


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).


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.


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.


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

  1. For starters: Ramus to DL, Peterson back, no further moves


    We were expecting a flurry of roster moves this afternoon and we got one. OF Colby Ramus is on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to June 19 with left hip tendinitis.

    Colby Ramus is on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to June 19 with left hip tendinitis.
  2. Jameis Winston stats: How the Bucs QB performed under pressure


    Every quarterback's performance declines when he faces pressure from the defense.

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston faced pressure on more than 30 percent of his pass plays last season. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  3. Could Lightning deal for a defenseman today?


    Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has been trying to further bolster his blueline, and he may have a chance to acquire one by tonight's first round of the NHL Draft.

    The Lightning is reportedly in on Travis Hamonic (Islanders), though New York is rumored to be asking for two-first round picks.
  4. SI ranks Quinton Flowers on top 100, above Deondre Francois


    Sports Illustrated's ongoing countdown of the top 100 players in college football includes some high praise for USF quarterback Quinton Flowers.

  5. Kentucky recruit, former Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox among top prospects for 2018 NBA Draft


    Less than 24 hours after the NBA Draft, analysts have already begun looking ahead to 2018.

    Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox finishes a layup during the McDonald's All-American game in March at the United Center in Chicago. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]