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Mighty Brandon tripped by feet (and hands) of clay

Published Mar. 19, 1991|Updated Oct. 13, 2005

Brandon has struggled despite its 7-2-1 record entering this afternoon's Western Conference game at Jefferson (9-2). The Eagles, ranked fourth in Florida's Class 4A sportswriters' poll and 16th nationally by USA Today, defeated Plant (4-0) and Robinson (6-3), tied Tampa Bay Vo-Tech (6-6) and lost to Armwood (3-2) last week.

Brandon committed seven errors Wednesday against Vo-Tech. The game will most likely remain a tie, according to officials at both schools. It was called after six innings because of a combination of rain and darkness.

The Eagles followed up their poor effort against the Titans with four defensive errors and five base-running mistakes Saturday against Armwood.

"We have no business being ranked as high as we are with the way we have been playing," coach Robert Campbell said. "We have some new people at new positions on defense and it's taking time for them to get adjusted."

The biggest changes are on the left side of the infield. Senior shortstop Rudy Stroud, a three-year starter, has been relegated to designated hitter for the past nine games because of a pulled tricep muscle in his throwing arm. Junior Matt DuBose has moved over from third base to take his place. Sophomore Brad Gonzales starts at third base.

While defense and base-running have been problems, pitching and hitting (from the first five players in the batting order) have not.

Senior pitchers Danny Graves and Donnie Wolfe have been impressive. And leftfielder Byron Patty, Stroud, centerfielder Bruce Thompson, second baseman Jason Reed and catcher Aaron Highsmith all are hitting over .300.

Early signings: Five county players have already signed college scholarships: Bloomingdale pitcher Rocco Cafaro (Vanderbilt), Graves (Miami, Fla.), Jefferson pitcher Fred Rath (South Florida) and shortstop Rudy Dawson (Ball State) and Jesuit pitcher Brad Radke (South Florida). Dawson will attend Ball State on a football/baseball scholarship.

"I don't mind my kids signing early," Jefferson coach Pop Cuesta said. "It relieves a lot of pressure and allows them the opportunity to concentrate and enjoy their senior seasons."

Transplanted success: Seven conference players are enjoying success at new schools, where they transferred either before the school year or season started. All start for their new teams.

The transfers include Patty (from Robinson) and DuBose (Bloomingdale), Chamberlain shortstop John Tamargo (Gaither), Gaither catcher Javy Marrero (Chamberlain), Jefferson's Rath (St. Petersburg Shorecrest), King catcher Alain Ayes (Hillsborough) and Plant rightfielder Sean Hooker (Jesuit).

A double no-no: Plant City senior right-hander Jeff Dixon (2-2) and East Bay junior right-hander Jason Dearth (1-2) pitched complete-game no-hitters against each other Friday. Plant City won 2-0.

Dixon struck out eight and walked one. Dearth had four strikeouts. Plant City scored one run in the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly and another in the fifth on Dearth's throwing error. The Raiders committed two errors; the Indians had five.

Iron arm: Armwood junior catcher Keith Freda has developed into one of the county's top players at the position. Freda's arm is earning respect from opponents. He's thrown out 10 runners attempting to steal, including three in games against Plant and Brandon. Freda also leads Armwood with a .346 batting average.

Jesuit tourney: Besides playing in the Tony Saladino Memorial Tournament April 1-6, Jesuit (8-3) will compete in the Ted Williams Classic on April 9-13 at Baseball City. The Tigers open the eight-team event against Miami Norland on April 10 at 5 p.m. Jesuit also plays on April 11 at 8 p.m.

Notables: East Bay senior catcher James Larrow could be sidelined for the rest of the season with a broken collarbone suffered against Chamberlain on March 12. Chamberlain rightfielder Rich Bruney leads the county in home runs with five. Jefferson's Scotty Miller and Rafael Nava and Gaither's Ryan Dedmon and Jeff Javinett each have three homers apiece. Three of Chamberlain's (7-4) losses have come when opponents rallied to win in the last inning. Bloomingdale was scheduled to play at Robinson on Monday and Leto travels to Armwood on Wednesday to make up games postponed March 9 by rain.

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