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Pinellas: Baseball season preview

The terms wide open and up for grabs usually are not applied to Pinellas County baseball. For the past decade, season previews have become rather monotonous with Clearwater Central Catholic, Dunedin or Seminole installed as the prohibitive favorite. Those all-too-familiar contenders rank at the top because of talent and tradition. Each has won at least one state title and had at least one player drafted in the first five rounds the past 10 years. But each of those teams looks a little more vulnerable after graduation hit them hard. The Falcons, the defending Class 5A state champions, lost eight of their nine starters. The Marauders and Warhawks also said goodbye to a good chunk of their lineup. That leaves the door open for other teams in a season in which it truly can be anybody's ballgame.

For the fans

Admission: Most schools don't charge for regular-season games.

Regular season: The first regular-season games allowed are today. A team may not play more than 25 games, including tournaments. The season ends April 25.

Playoffs: District tournaments are April 27 to May 1. The 16 district winners and 16 runnersup from each classification advance to region tournaments, which begin May 5. The final four teams from each of six classes advance to the state tournament May 20-26 in Port St. Lucie.

Class 6A-7

Teams: Alonso, Countryside, Gaither, Mitchell, St. Petersburg, Sickles

Outlook: St. Petersburg has a young team and new coach. Countryside is always capable of a big upset. But a playoff berth will be asking a lot from either team in one of the toughest districts in the state.

Class 5A-9

Teams: Clearwater, Dunedin, East Lake, Largo, Palm Harbor University, Pinellas Park, Tarpon Springs.

Top players: Clearwater: Brett Gourley, Andrew McCormick, Sean O'Brien; Dunedin: Mike Clarkson, Todd Haskel, Alex Norris, Casey Turgeon; East Lake: Nick Franz, Will Fulmer, Tyler Kellman, Brian Johnson and Taylor Lesch; Palm Harbor U: Anthony Diaz, Zack Sobel, Kyle Westwood; Pinellas Park: Curtis Riley, Cody Mattull; Tarpon Springs: Josiah Fisk, Tommy Organ, Junior Robinson, Alex Young.

Outlook: Dunedin's stranglehold on the district will be tested with East Lake, Palm Harbor University and Tarpon Springs returning the majority of their lineup.

Class 5A-11

Teams: Boca Ciega, Dixie Hollins, Gibbs, Lakewood, Northeast, Osceola, Seminole.

Top players: Dixie Hollins: Nathan Chlysta, Mark Danna; Northeast: Shawn Delmontagne, Walter Lamerson, Jeremy Lopez;

Osceola: Mike Boriboun, Taylor Laynor, Anthony Matacchiero; Seminole: Michael Carlin, Joe Lamoureux, Tim Lamoureux, Mike Martello.

Outlook: Seminole's biggest test should come from Northeast, which returns a strong a strong nucleus of juniors and has assembled a quality coaching staff. Osceola also is a young team on the rise.

Class 2A-9

Teams: Bishop McLaughlin, Calvary Christian, Indian Rocks Christian, Tampa Prep.

Outlook: Indian Rocks and Calvary Christian still will be chasing front-runner Bishop McLaughlin.

Class 3A-11

Teams: Berkeley Prep, Clearwater Central Catholic, Lennard, St. Petersburg Catholic, Tampa Catholic.

Top players: James Dowdell (CCC), Connor Obrachtz (SPC), Zach Olson (CCC), Chris Santos (CCC), Cody Slaughter (CCC), Bobby Twitty (SPC)

Outlook: CCC has enough to make another run in the district. SPC's new coach, John Vigue, will have help from some former major leaguers.

Class 2A-11

Teams: Admiral Farragut, Bradenton St. Stephen's, Keswick Christian, Northside Christian, Shorecrest.

Top players: Northside Christian: David Edwards, Ryan McDonald, Kyle Turner, Robbie Williams; Shorecrest: Tyler Larson, Brent Rasmussen, John Rothwell.

Outlook: Northside Christian returns all but one player from last year's region final team. Shorecrest lost some key starters but has enough to contend.

Class A-11

Teams: Academy at the Lakes, Canterbury, Citrus Park Christian, Oldsmar Christian.

Top players: Canterbury: Thomas Henry, Ryan Laurent.

Outlook: Canterbury lost seven starters and has six freshmen.

Pinellas: Baseball season preview 02/15/09 [Last modified: Sunday, February 15, 2009 6:16pm]

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