As another school year closes, we present some of our fondest memories of the North Suncoast year in sports with milestones, moments and marks. We spent days — okay, hours — hunkered in an office the size of a closet with no air-conditioning — okay, a palatial, sparkling new office with a broken air conditioner — to try to nail down the key moments of the school year. Our list:
Schuster strikes out 20
With an in-blowing wind adding break to his curve, Mitchell junior lefty Patrick Schuster, right, tied a 51-year-old Pasco County record by striking out 20 Gulf batters April 15. Our retort to those who discredit the feat by saying Gulf had a weak-hitting team: Spare us. The kid still had to consistently get the ball over the plate.
Arline runs away with record
He will be remembered as a stocky, bruising running back who could roll over linebackers like a bulldozer taking down timber. Ridgewood running back Byronell Arline, right, finished his career as Pasco County's all-time rushing leader with 5,279 career yards. In just his senior season, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound crusher ran for 2,188 yards and 35 touchdowns. He will play for Dodge City Community College in Kansas this fall.
Montelongo sets scoring records
Jose Montelongo, Pasco's talented forward, set Pasco County's all-time scoring record with 143 goals in four seasons. And the powerful striker set Pasco's single-season mark with 48 goals to break his old mark of 43 set his sophomore season. He will play at Saint Leo in the fall.
Queen of the diamond
Pure power and emotion helped Land O'Lakes junior Michelle Bradley, right, club a North Suncoast record 10 home runs this season to break the mark set by Mitchell junior Olivia Kline in 2006, when she hit six. Bradley spent the season in a battle between several girls and finally pulled away, hitting a pair of bombs in a 5-4 win at Mitchell, then added solo shots against Zephyrhills and Westminster Christian for her final four round-trippers.
With a clutch bucket, Ridgewood junior guard Alvin Satram provided the proverbial glucose that made coach Gary Anders' 500th win so sweet. In a pivotal district showdown at Land O'Lakes, Satram, who already had been whistled for a technical, beat his man off the dribble and nailed a short jumper at the buzzer to force overtime. The Rams ultimately prevailed, 70-66.
Pasco honors Thomas
Before the first varsity meeting between Pasco and Wiregrass Ranch, the Pirates honored alumnus and Bulls head coach Ricky Thomas, right, by presenting him with a framed black No. 22 jersey he wore in the 1970s when he played at Pasco. The pregame ceremony was the idea of first-year Pasco coach Tom McHugh, who wanted to recognize Thomas' efforts during his three decades of coaching, including his tenure at Pasco from 1996 to 2002, when he led the Pirates to a 45-29 mark with three playoff berths.
In a baseball season full of defensive highlights, the one that sticks out for us was produced by Nature Coast rightfielder Chris Jones in a 3-2 victory in nine innings at Springstead. With two outs and two runners on in the bottom of the fifth and the score 2-2, Jones made a lunging snag of a James Adams liner. Even Eagles coach Frank Vitale acknowledged Jones' play essentially took two Springstead runs off the board.
Take your breath away
The arrival of Land O'Lakes quarterback Stevie Weatherford, above, officially took place when he helped bail the Gators out of fourth and long on their 30. Weatherford started what has been labeled "the double pass" left to Ely Payne, who chucked it deep. The ball hit off Jerome Harrison and fell into the clutches of Nick Castellano for a first down. A few plays later, Weatherford completed the stunning march, throwing a dart to Alex Robinson for a 35-yard touchdown and a 14-9 victory.
Brink wins state
Two disappointing finishes at region meets her sophomore and junior seasons only made her senior year that much more special. Ridgewood pole-vaulter Keari Brink went undefeated in her final year, claiming conference, district and region titles en route to winning the Class 3A state championship with her vault of 11 feet.
Quentin Amos, right, could have walked away from Zephyrhills football. No one would have said a thing. But at 10:41 a.m. Aug. 10, Amos did something many thought would never happen again: He made his first hit during a preseason practice. Amos recovered from a horrific accident when his truck flipped over several times last summer, damaging his left arm to the point doctors considered amputation. Instead, Amos fought hard and returned to the field for his senior year. He will have the opportunity to play at a prep school next fall. And though his arm will never be the same, his story was one of inspiration that will live on long beyond his playing days.
On the thrill-o-meter, win No. 500 for Ridgewood's longtime boys basketball coach might have ranked in the top five. A 70-66 overtime road win against district foe Land O'Lakes put Anders, above, in the 500 club in his 29th season as a coach. The game ball, presented by Gators coach Dave Puhalski, was a classy touch that moved Anders to tears.
We're beginning to think Pasco's 15-year baseball coach would trade about 250 of those wins for one more state tournament berth. Once again, the Pirates' season ended with a playoff loss, but not before Giles, right, notched win No. 300 with a 5-4 triumph at Springstead in the Class 4A, District 8 tournament.
Gators ranked nationally
Land O'Lakes was ranked fifth in the nation by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America after winning the Soccer Field Invitational tournament and beginning the season 21-1-1. The great regular-season success came to a crushing halt after Freedom stunned the Gators with a 1-0 win in the first round of the playoffs. Land O'Lakes finished the season 25-2-1.