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Public high school baseball preview

Private school previews will be published at a later date.Boca Ciega

Coach Jim O'Reilly (first season).

Record last year _ 18-9.

Key player lost _ Lance Chambers.

Key returnees _ Scott Harper, Sr., SS, (switches from third base to shortstop this year); Scott Shirah, Sr., LHP, (three-year starter and one of the top pitchers in the county); Mike Boyd, Jr., 2B; Rob Bergman, Sr., 1B.

Notes _ O'Reilly will be hard-pressed to equal Boca Ciega's two consecutive Pinellas County Conference titles. The Pirates lost seven starters from last year's team and O'Reilly steps in to rebuild the Pirates.

Clearwater

Coach _ Steve Sotir (6th season).

Record last year _ 16-10.

Key player lost _ Mike Arner, Sean Dall.

Key returnees _ Eric Einfalt, Sr., LHP, (must replace Arner); Mark Wrenn, SR., P/SS; John Timko, Sr., C/OF; Ryan Becker, Sr., DH/C, Jason Barrera, Sr., LHP/1B.

Notes _ A lot of pressure falls on Einfalt to step in and fill the vacated spot of Arner. Arner gave Clearwater consistency on the mound and leadership. Sotir hopes Einfalt and Wrenn can fill in quickly for the Tornadoes.

Countryside

Coach _ Steve Paoletti (first season).

Record last year _ 6-18.

Key player lost _ Charlie Morgan.

Key returnees _ Kenny King, Jr., RHP; Robbie Hatcher, Jr., RHP; Jim Perrino, Jr., 2B; Eric Alexander, Jr., 1B/Of.

Notes _ King will be a key to the Cougars' success this year. He is an excellent athlete with great offensive and defensive skills. Countryside could get a big boost if King develops as a pitcher on the mound.

Dixie Hollins

Coach _ Bill Sebring (5th season).

Record last year _ 15-15.

Key player lost _ none.

Key returnees _ Brad Gay, Sr., C, (.300 batting average, .600 slugging percentage, top catcher in the county and highly regarded pro prospect); Rob Gerdes, Sr., 2B, (switches from shortstop to second base this year); Marty Schnitzler, Sr., LHP; Brandon Markowitz, Sr., SS, (transfer from Gibbs High); Mike Murray, Sr., 3B, (led team in hitting last year); Brian Williard, Jr., RHP; Rick Braisted, Jr., CF.

Notes _ Strong hitting lineup, experienced pitching staff and excellent defensive unit gives Sebring his best team. The Rebels don't have any weaknesses. Gay is a defensive wizard behind the plate and Gerdes and Markowitz form one of the best double-play combinations in the county.

Dunedin

Coach _ Greg Nichols (19th season).

Record last year _ 21-7 (lost to Sarasota in district finals 2-1).

Key player lost _ Scott Hewett (Times'player-of-the-year last season); Bobby Nash.

Key returnees _ Jason Mohr, Sr., CF, Ryan Griffin, Jr., RHP/OF, Mark Gipner, Jr., C, Scott Kanehl, Jr., SS.

Notes _ The Falcons are filled with promise. But they might be a year away. Griffin is a strong right-hander and will be counted on heavily to stabilize the Falcons' inexperienced pitching staff. Losing Hewett and Nash will hurt Dunedin but the Falcons are loaded with sophomores and juniors who could replace them immediately.

East Lake

Coach _ Peter Spennato (3rd season).

Record last year _ 11-14.

Key player lost _ Nick Apone.

Key returnees _ Mike Keane, Jr., RHP; R.J. Slutz, Jr., OF; Paul Reynolds, Jr., SS; Todd Boyette, Sr., 1B; Ted Elliott, Soph., C; Dan Wooley, Soph., OF.

Notes _ This is a young team loaded with potential. With only two seniors the Eagles might be one year away from being a contender. But East Lake has lots of talent and will be competitive this year. Reynolds is regarded as one of the best defensive shortstops in the county and Slutz is a powerful hitter.

Gibbs

Coach _ Paul Costello (4th season).

Record last year _ 14-15 (Class 3A, district champions).

Key player lost _ Steve Gray, Mike Putnam.

Key returnees _ Chris Kent, Sr., 2B/P; Billy Peterson, Sr., P/3B; Cory Brown, Soph., P/OF, (7-3 last year and one no-hitter); Pete Bronson, Jr., DH/OF; Shawn Kilpatrick, Jr., C, Jason Cline, Soph., RHP.

Notes _ Losing six seniors and Brandon Markowitz transferring to Dixie Hollins will make it difficult for Gibbs to repeat as district champions. But Costello is optimistic with the return of sophomore standout Brown. Brown is already regarded as one of the best pitchers in the county. Kent and Peterson provide the Gladiators with leadership.

Lakewood

Coach _ Mike Jacobs (20th season).

Key player lost _ Andre Allen, Rob Dobbs.

Key returnees _ Ryan Jacobs, Jr., C, (left-handed hitter); David Pence, Sr., 3B; Trevor Mallory, Jr., RHP/SS (one of the top pitching prospects in the county); Jeff Gordon, RHP/SS, Sr., (one of the top pitching prospects in the county); Dave Bosco, Sr., 2B, Mike Hurm, Sr., CF; Tommy Carter, Sr., utility player, (football and basketball star, signed with Notre Dame on football scholarship).

Notes _ This team is loaded. Mallory and Gordon form one of the top pitching combinations in the state. Both hurlers are being looked at by professional scouts and colleges. Last year they had a combined 14-5 record. Both pitchers throw hard and Gordon has outstanding control. The Spartans have all the tools to win the PCC.

Largo

Coach _ Alan Willey (1st season).

Record last year _ 6-18.

Key player lost _ John Blakely.

Key returnees _ Ryan Andrews, Sr., LHP/1B; Chris Elliott, Jr., C; Sloan Beckelheimer, Jr., RHP; Troy Gale, Sr., 2B; Jason Kylis, Sr., 3B.

Notes _ The Packers will be without the junior right-handed hurler Dennis Slininger this season. Slininger was regarded by many scouts to be the fastest pitcher in the county but Willey cut him for academic and personal reasons. Slininger was expected to combine with Andrews to give Largo a solid pitching duo.

Northeast

Coach _ Scott Miller (8th season).

Record last year _ 20-10.

Key player lost _ Paul Roberts.

Key returnees _ J.C. Connolly, Sr., SS, (must replace Roberts at shortstop); Dan Hage, Sr., 2B, (three-year starter, Times all-county first team selection); J.R. Spahr, Jr., CF; Kurt King, Jr., LHP; Jay Austin, Sr., C, (football star who signed with the University of Florida).

Notes _ Miller must find a way to fill the shoes of Roberts. Roberts was a prototype player and gave the Vikings strong leadership. Hage and Connolly will need to respond immediately. King is a underrated pitcher who could make a strong impact in the Vikings' rotation this season.

Osceola

Coach _ Mark Deruzzo (4th season).

Record last year _ 12-15.

Key player lost _ Kelly Wilson.

Key returnees _ Kenny Winkle, Sr., 3B/P; Ron Crepeau, Sr., C; Mike Comiskey, Jr., RHP; Steve Schwartz, Sr., SS.

Notes _ Osceola will need strong years from Winkle and Comiskey to be competitive. Comiskey is a hard-throwing junior and Winkle gives the Warriors experience on the mound and at the plate.

Pinellas Park

Coach _ Lee Byers (10th season).

Record last year _ 16-11.

Key player lost _ Bobby Slater.

Key returnees _ Steve Ford, Sr., RHP/Inf; Mark Zeller, Sr., OF; Reggie Kalous, Sr., C; Wes Straw, Jr., 1B; Tim Killian, Jr., SS/2B; Chad Cooper, Sr., RHP; Rick Mugavero, Jr., 1B.

Notes _ The Patriots lost their entire starting outfield and only have three seniors on the team. Ford will be asked to carry much of the load for the Patriots on the mound, at the plate and in the field. St. Petersburg

Coach _ Mark Maloney (1st season).

Record last year _ 3-17.

Key player lost _ none.

Key returnees _ Rob Pope, Sr., RHP; Gabe Martin, Jr., RHP; Chris Dalton, Jr., SS; Rob Simmons, Sr., C; Brent Hoover, Soph., P/Of; J.R. Wade, Jr., 1B; Travis Smith, Soph., P/1B; Jim O'Leary, Jr., RHP.

Notes _ Pope will carry much of the burden for the young Green Devils this year. First year coach Maloney feels St. Petersburg is one or two years away from putting together a solid team. Sophomore pitchers Hoover and Smith could be counted on heavily this year if they develop immediately.

Seminole

Coach _ Bill Brinker (24th season).

Record last year _ 17-12.

Key player lost _ Brian Zaletel, Nate Dempsey, Mike Roosa.

Key returnees _ Adam Mazzei, Sr., Of, Scott Haefele, Sr., OF; Darren McClellan, Jr., RHP; Sean McClellan, Soph., RHP; Gary Bodnar, Jr., 3B; Joel Place, Jr., LHP; David Burns, Fr., RHP.

Notes _ The McClellan brothers will be keys for the Warhawks this season. Both hurlers have outstanding speed and must solidify the pitching staff. Along with Place and Burns, the Warhawks have an outstanding corps of pitchers.

Tarpon Springs

Coach _ Scott Decatur (5th season).

Record last year _ 10-15.

Key player lost _ Mike McSunas.

Key returnees _ Mike Minacci, Sr., SS, (three-year starter); Jason Defronzo, Sr., P/Inf; Mike Hildebrandt, Sr., RHP; Wayne Thummb, Sr., Inf.

Notes _ The maturity and leadership of Minacci could strengthen the Spongers. Minacci is a smooth shortstop with outstanding range and a solid offensive threat for Tarpon Springs. He must stay consistent offensively and defensively for the Spongers to do well.

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