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Gulf Coast club to play in international tourney

Jayson Pierce has played in plenty of high school and youth-league baseball games, but he said none of those will compare to the tournament he'll play in later this month. Pierce, a Central High graduate, pitches for the Gulf Coast Yankees of the Florida Stan Musial League men's amateur baseball program.

The Yankees plan to play in the 1991 Expo Internationale, a six-team tourney in Cocoa. The field includes two American teams, two from Canada, one from Colombia and one from the Soviet Union.

"This will be something to remember," Pierce said. "How many opportunities do you get to play with people from Russia and other parts of the world?"

Tournament director Kevin Russell said the six teams will meet beginning June 30 in a round-robin format to determine seeding for medal-round play, which ends July 7.

Russell said the Soviet representative, a club-level team, includes some members of its national program, but the Canadian teams, from Alberta and Quebec, many be the tourney's strongest.

"The international teams really want to develop their programs, and that's why they're sending over 18- and 19-year-old players," Russell said. "The Soviets will be somewhat competitive, but we really don't expect any stellar performances."

"We're hoping to come home with a medal," said Yankees manager Joe Pepitone of Spring Hill.

"We're going there for the experience, to win, to compete and to represent ourselves well," said Yankees assistant coach Jim Pierce, Jayson's father.

Expo Internationale is a first-year event Russell hopes to see grow.

"This something we're just getting off the ground," Russell said. "We're hoping for it to become a major international tournament.

"We had hoped to have a full field of foreign teams, but when we couldn't get that we decided to fill it in with a couple of local American teams. We picked them from applicants in Florida and Georgia."

The Gulf Coast club, which plays at Saint Leo College, will be joined by a Cocoa all-star team. Russell said the Yankees were selected in part because of his relationship with Pepitone. Both are from Long Island, N.Y.

The Yankees' 24-man roster includes two of Pierce's teammates at Central, Scott Schuster and Pasha Darby, and ex-Bear Brian Venclauskas; former Springstead High players John Peel and Tom Birch; and former Hernando High players Cory Tibbs and Brian Dalton.

The club carries several players from outside Hernando County, including Ridgewood High products Kevin Diem, Ralph Luciani and Eric Rice and Polk Community College teammates John Timko of Clearwater High and Alan Parker of Tampa Chamberlain. Parker, a shortstop, was a late-round selection of the California Angels during the recent major-league draft.

"I got the nucleus of the boys from Hernando County," Pepitone said, "and then I got some other boys, pitchers and position players, to help us out."

The 12-5 Yankees lead the North Division of the Stan Musial League, which includes teams from Spring Hill and St. Petersburg. The 3-year-old league is open to men aged 18-40, but most of the Yankees are younger players who have played or hope to play in college.

The Yankees hope to raise $5,000 to finance the trip, including meals, lodging, transportation and, Russell said, a $500 entry fee. For more information, call Pepitone at (904) 688-6193 or Jim Pierce at (904) 686-9277.