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Cotey: There's a new ace in CCC country

CCC’s Zach Olson may not have been the fans’ first choice to pitch, but he delivered.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR | Special to the Times

CCC’s Zach Olson may not have been the fans’ first choice to pitch, but he delivered.

DUNEDIN — The day of the big game arrived. Ryan Weber, Clearwater Central Catholic's star pitcher, walked the halls at school, and everyone asked him the same question: Pitching tonight against Dunedin?

No? Darn.

As Sam Mende, the sweet-swinging standout shortstop, sat in class Friday, or put books in his locker, or ate his lunch, it didn't really matter where, everyone had the same question.

Weber pitching tonight? No? Bummer.

They asked Zach Olson, too. The junior knew they were disappointed when he had to say, "no, Weber isn't pitching."

"They wanted to know why. Why isn't he pitching," Olson said. That put Olson in a tough spot because, well …he was pitching. So sorry.

Fans didn't get the matchup they wanted — the juicy possibility of Weber against the Falcons was touted for weeks. They did, however, get the kind of performance Weber is known for.

The unsung Olson survived a bumpy first inning, then remembered to keep his pitches down. He retired 13 of 14 after Ryan Schneider gave the Falcons a 2-0 lead. His coach, Todd Vaughan, had hoped for three innings from his starter. Four, he said, was icing. Six? "I got to eat my cake, too," the coach said.

Olson allowed just four hits. Six innings after some in the crowd had been disappointed to see him, and not Weber, trot to the mound, he was a hero and named the tournament's best pitcher. Not bad for a guy coming off possibly his worst outing.

Last week against Palm Harbor University, Olson was around, giving up a bushel of hits and leaving disgusted with himself. Not much changed in the first inning against Dunedin. He allowed three straight hits, two runs, and his pitches were staying up. By the second inning, Olson was cruising.

"Before the game everyone was asking if Weber was pitching," Mende said, "and they were kind of freaking out. I was upset about that, because we knew what he could do. That first inning he left a couple of pitches up, but after that…"

After that, Weber added, "he was great."

Olson has proven himself as a bonafide starter all season. While Joe McLemore continued to work his way back from arm surgery, it was Olson who stepped in at the No. 2 spot to plug a hole for the Marauders.

Next year, he may be the ace, like he was on this one night.

Olson's performance capped a run through the spring tournament that showed everyone just how good CCC is.

The Marauders came in feeling as if they weren't getting the respect they deserved, and wanted to send a message. They defeated three 5A schools (one by a 17-0 score), and a 6A school. They beat Dunedin.

"It wasn't a chip on our shoulder," Mende said. "It was a boulder."

With apologies to undefeated Seminole, the Marauders' win over Dunedin answered any questions about the best baseball team in the county.

Too much hitting. Too much defense. Oh yeah, and too much pitching.

Just ask anyone who was wondering if Weber would start Friday's game.

Cotey: There's a new ace in CCC country 04/05/08 [Last modified: Thursday, April 10, 2008 10:57am]
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