1. Archive

North Suncoast baseball preview

Central High 1989 record: 11-2 as a junior varsity program, including a 3-0 record against varsity competition.

Coach: Tony Zefiretto.

Key returnees: John Laricos, 4-0, Sr., RHP; John Fischer, .560 JV, Sr., RF; Brian Venclauscus, .565 JV, Sr., 2B; Pasha Darby, .560 JV, 9 HR, Jr., LF.

Outlook: Zefiretto's goal in Central's first varsity year is simple: Be competitive. "We have some questions defensively," he said, "but all of my pitchers are really good, and I think we're going to score some runs."

John Laricos earned the decision in Central's three victories over varsity teams last season (two over Bronson and one against St. Petersburg-Admiral Farragut Academy). Junior left-hander Scott Schuster, like catcher Rich Seeman, is a Springstead junior varsity transfer. Shortstop Sam Best and third baseman Steve Hahn will also pitch.

Outfielders John Fischer and Pasha Darby and second baseman Brian Venclauscus are expected to provide offensive punch. Jason Jernigan and Seeman will work behind the plate, with sophomore Kirk Sereda roaming center field.

Citrus High

1989 record: 17-7.

Coach: Dale Walker.

Key returnees: Donnie Whillock, P, Jr., 7-2, .415 BA; Nick Pleskovich, Sr., 1B, .300 BA; Vinny Nelson, Sr., 2B, .300 BA.

Outlook: The biggest preseason question mark for the Hurricanes is pitching.

Junior Donnie Whillock is the only returner with varsity experience, though he certainly got the season off to a good start with a one-hitter in Citrus' 6-1 win over Leesburg Tuesday.

"We're going to have to score runs to win because we don't know how our pitching is going to be," Walker said. Walker somehow manages to find a way to win. In 10 seasons as a head coach he has never had a losing season.

Crystal River High

1989 record: 17-7.

Coach: Joe Buccheri.

Key returnees: Michael Hampton, Sr., P, 10-1, 0.09 ERA, .405 BA; Brian Fitzgerald, Sr., C, .357 BA; Lannie Hough, Sr., 3B.

Outlook: The Pirates have several new faces in the lineup this spring, but ace pitcher/outfielder Michael Hampton can make up for a lot of inexperience with one swing of the bat.

Buccheri is filling holes left by graduation at shortstop, second base, first base, left field and right field.

"It's too early for me to say anything," Buccheri said. "We've had some major transitions. We're very excited about what we've seen at practice, but it's just too early to tell."

Dunnellon High

1989 record: 7-11.

Coach: David Roland.

Key returnees: Brian Follet (Sr., P), Jason Miranda (Jr., CF), Matt Lindsey (Sr., 1B)

Outlook: The Tigers got off to a slow start, losing ball games to Williston (5-2) and Newberry (11-5), but second-year coach Roland knows it's way to early in the season to panic.

"I can see we're improving," Roland said. "We're going to get better as the year goes along. We have some people playing high school baseball for the first time."

Most important will be the maturation of the Tigers' pitching staff. "we don't have any depth," Roland said.

Gulf High

1989 record: 13-15.

Coach: Jerry Young (13th year).

Key returnees: Albert Rodriquez, Sr., 1B-P; Jason Waz, Sr., LF; Jeff Duszczak, Jr., 3B-P.

Outlook: The Buccaneers lost only two players from last year's squad that finished strong (winning nine of its last 12 games).

With seven pitchers _ five of whom are starters _ the Buccaneers could contend for the Gulf Coast Conference title.

Hernando High

1989 record: 18-8.

Coach: Mike Ellison.

Key returnees: Cory Tibbs, .460, Sr., OF/P; Doug Coleman, 19 SB, Sr., SS/2B.

Outlook: Hernando High's losses, including three starters who signed with junior colleges, will cut into a club that won 18 games last season.

First-year coach Ellison, a former assistant, will build his pitching staff around Greg Woods, a brother of Montreal Expos minor leaguer Tyrone Woods, and Cory Tibbs, who makes the transition from basketball. Woods will also play infield and Tibbs outfield.

Catcher Danny Anhalt, middle infielder Doug Coleman, third baseman Nathaniel Maura and first baseman Desmond Sanders return with experience.

Hudson High

1989 record: 19-9.

Coach: Jack Homko.

Key returnees: Travis Palmer, Sr., C; Mike Taylor, Jr., P-1B; Leon Mouret, Sr., RF, .285 batting average.

Outlook: Hudson lost most of its talent to graduation and currently has only two seniors on its roster. Homko will rely on Palmer to carry the team's offense.

Land O'Lakes High

1989 record: 10-17.

Coach: Calvin Baisley (sixth year).

Key returnees: Russ Hedgecock, Sr., SS, .383; Jimmy Moon, Jr., P-RF; Brian Horn, Jr., 3B, .320.

Outlook: The Gators return 10 seniors and two juniors who saw considerable playing time last season. With Hedgecock, Land O'Lakes' middle infield is strong.

Lecanto High

1989 record: 10-17, 2A-9 district and 2A-V regional champs.

Coach: Doug Connors.

Key returnees: Chris Sancrante, Jr., P, 5-6; Todd Waldhouser, Jr., 2B, 18 SB; Tony Brice, Sr., P/OF; David Curry, Sr., SS, .324 BA.

Outlook: The Panthers have several quality players returning in all areas _ pitching, infield and outfield. With several solid performers on defense, hitting will determine who makes the Panthers' starting lineup.

"I think we'll do alright," Connors said. "Defensively, we'll be better than we were last year. The kids have been working hard. I see better work habits."

But the Panthers cannot rest on their 1989 post-season laurels, Connors said. "It's February, 1990," he said. "It's all starting over from scratch."

Pasco High

1989 record: 9-18.

Coach: Lenny Cimador (23rd year).

Key returnees: Brian Crutcher, Sr., SS-P, .410; Phil Wilson, Sr., 2B, 7 HRs, 27 RBI, .326; Darryl Belton, Sr., OF (led team in on-base percentage).

Outlook: The Pirates return 11 seniors and Cimador, the dean of coaches in Pasco County. Crutcher led the Pirates in every hitting category expect homers and runs batted-in.

Pasco has the Gulf Coast Conference's top double-play combination.

Ridgewood High

1989 record: 14-14.

Coach: Larry Beets.

Top returnees: David Doorneweerd, Jr., P, 4-4; Ralph Luciani, Sr., C; Joe Bertucci, Sr., 3B.

Outlook: After a 6-0 start in the GCC last season, the Rams finished 9-6. Ridgewood also lost several close games down the stretch.

Should Ridgewood win 10 games, it would achieve its 100th varsity baseball victory in the school's history.

Springstead High

1989 record: 14-17.

Coach: Chuck Moehle.

Key returnees: John Fitzpatrick, 15 RBI, Sr., RF/1B; Jeff Zielinski, 5 wins, 2.45 ERA, P/2B; Shawn Panno, 17 RBI, Sr., SS.

Outlook: With just six varsity returnees, youth abounds at Springstead. "We're wet behind the ears," Moehle said.

Sophomore Jeff Zielinski returns as the ace of Springstead's staff and will also play second base. Centerfielder John Iarussi and right-hander Steve Sereda will also start on the mound, with Pete Sbashning slated for middle relief.

Senior shortstop Shawn Panno has experience in the infield, which includes third baseman Shannon Gonzalez along with first basemen John Fitzpatrick and Eric Petersen.

Sophomore catcher Matt Klasnick is being promoted from junior varsity. Fitzpatrick will work in the outfield along with leftfielder Chris Cusker, Iarussi and Matt Weber.

Zephyrhills High

1989 record: 6-20.

Coach: Craig Milburn (12th year).

Top returnees: Ryan Back, Jr., LF, All-GCC, .350; Harold Oglibee, Sr., 2B; Reggie Roberts, Sr., 1B.

Outlook: The Bulldogs started six sophomores last season and they're still learning how to win. Milburn said "winning 15 games this season is a realistic goal." Sophomore Marcus McCants should help Zephyrhills' pitching staff.