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News out of Gaither: Mitchell lefty Patrick Schuster's no-hitter streak ends today

CLEARWATER — According to the Gaither baseball team, at some point this afternoon ESPN will cut into its regularly scheduled programming of The World's Strongest Men Playing in the World Series of Poker against Competitive Aerobics Instructors to tell its audience that Mitchell High School's Patrick Schuster's streak of no-hitters has come to an end.

Then it will show a base hit by Cowboy Drew Doty, over and over and over again.

Or maybe something up the middle by Justin Delgado, something to the gap by Brady North, maybe something down the line from Mike Danner.

"It will be somebody," North said. "We will not be no-hit."

North isn't exactly going out on a limb there, as tremendous, incomprehensible odds are stacked against Patrick Schuster throwing yet another no-hitter, after setting a state record with his fourth in a row last week.

Anyone who tells you otherwise, who actually believes for a second Patrick Schuster can do it again, is either lying, wearing a Mitchell High School T-shirt or used to change Schuster's diapers.

That said, I'm the first one in the place today.

Bright House Sports Network will carry the game live and feed ESPN all the juicy stuff as it happens. Every local television station and then some will mark its territory for the perfect shot.

They laid down new mulch at Countryside, and nothing says Big Event like the two additional portable potties that are on the way to accommodate what will probably be the biggest crowd to ever see a baseball game at Countryside.

Gaither won the lottery Monday afternoon, beating St. Petersburg 10-2 to earn the right to play Mitchell in today's ultra-hyped chance-to-be-on-ESPN district semifinal.

And not that this game needs any more drama, but the winner moves on to the state playoffs. The loser is finished for the season.

"It's going to be pretty wild," Danner said.

Monday's game was barely an inning old when the Mustangs showed up. Schuster led them through the gate in flip flops, camel-colored cargo shorts and a Mitchell baseball shirt.

Schuster, who throws a 90 mph fastball and a slider that looks just as fast before letting gravity take over, doesn't walk as much as he glides.

He is 6 feet 2, 170 pounds, though his catcher Doug Burlett says, with affection, Schuster walks around school like he thinks he's 6-6, 240.

Gaither, though, was unfazed by his presence Monday, though that may change when he does, into his uniform.

The Cowboys banged out a dozen hits, and the first three hitters Schuster will see today — Delgado, Danner and Doty — went 7-for-11.

No-hit this?

"The pressure is on him," said Delgado, the leadoff hitter and only righty in the top half of the lineup — Nos. 2-5 are lefties.

"Hopefully I can start it out with a bang," he added. "That would be nice."

This is what's really nice: It means making ESPN, which will play the highlight 1,329 times before Baseball Tonight comes on.

It means your name, your swing, your hit, your burst out of the batter's box being on an endless loop for 24 hours.

It means probably making the day's Top 10 plays.

It means everything.

"That would be cool … to be a part of history," said North, who is sure someone is getting that hit.

He wants to be the guy, but if he had to bet on it, his money — heck, the whole Cowboy team's money — is on Doty, who leads Hillsborough County with nine homers and is batting .441.

The last time he faced Schuster, Doty hit the fourth pitch — the vaunted slider — to the right-center gap and one-hopped the fence for a double.

That's the good news.

Here's the bad: Schuster didn't allow a hit the remainder of his five innings pitched.

When Monday's game was over, Schuster led his upstart Mustangs out. He stopped for a minute, and asked if he had noticed anything he could exploit, laughed.

"I noticed they bunt a lot," which on this day they did.

"And I notice they have a lot of left-handed batters."

With that, Schuster glided back home with his teammates.

A few feet away, Gaither started for the bus trip to Tampa.

History will bring them back together today.

John C. Cotey can be reached at johncotey@gmail.com.

A fifth straight no-no?

What: Mitchell High lefty Patrick Schuster looks to extend his Florida record for no-hitters, going for his fifth straight.

Who/when/where: Mitchell vs. Gaither, 4 p.m. at Countryside High

Online: If you're stuck at work during game time, join us at blogs.tampabay.com/preps for live coverage.

TV: Live on Bright House Sports Network, with a replay at 8 p.m.

News out of Gaither: Mitchell lefty Patrick Schuster's no-hitter streak ends today 04/27/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 8:00am]
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