When the Chicago Cubs plucked 90-mph left-hander Chris Bryant from Brandon American Legion Post 278 and signed him to a professional contract, the Surviving Southpaws took over.
Since losing their top pitcher early in the summer season, Post 278's other three left-handed starters _ Scott Glaser, Jeremy Erickson and Joe Ralyea _ have led the team to five straight victories after its poor 3-7 start.
"These guys always do a good job for us," said Post 278 coach Greg Parris. "Jeremy and Scott had good Legion seasons last year, and they've stepped forward again now that Chris left."
Bryant was one of the county's top pitchers this spring with an 11-3 record, 1.22 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 86 innings. He turned down a scholarship offer from Edison Community College in Fort Myers to sign with the Cubs. But in his wake, the remaining starters have thrived.
Erickson, a 1992 Armwood High graduate, improved to 3-1 this summer with Tuesday's complete-game 10-0 shutout of North Tampa Post 334.
Glaser had an unspectacular year as a junior at Brandon, but leads the Post 278 staff with a 4-0 mark.
"He doesn't throw as hard as Chris, but he's been getting stronger," Parris said of Glaser. "We've had him in the weight room this summer. He was ill during the high school season and lost strength."
Ralyea (1-2), who just graduated from Armwood, has been a tough luck pitcher this Legion season, but threw 5 no-hit innings in a 10-3 win over Manatee Post 24 last week before tiring. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound pitcher-first baseman also provided the bulk of his team's offense with two home runs (a grand slam and a two-run shot) that accounted for six RBI.
"Everybody's starting to swing the bats a little more and give the pitchers some support," said Parris, who also lost centerfielder Delshon Bowman to the Baltimore Orioles in the amateur draft. "This is our second year of having an all-left-handed starting staff and it's a nice luxury. Now that we've won a few games, the confidence is there again."
Tuesday's victory pushed Brandon Post 278 over the .500 mark, to 8-7 this season, but it still trails Seminole Post 111 and West Tampa Post 248 in the District 15 standings.
Stretching things out of proportion: Tuesday night's game between District 15's top two teams took a detour during the seventh-inning stretch.
When home plate umpire Steve Kolacki called out Albert Derenches on strikes, ending the top of the seventh with two men on base, Seminole Post 111 coach Frank Permuy expressed his displeasure. Kolacki ejected Permuy for arguing balls and strikes.
On his way back to the dugout, Permuy kicked a batting helmet, prompting Kolacki to rule the game a forfeit in favor of West Tampa Post 248 even though Seminole Post 111 held a 5-3 lead.
But Kolacki was outside his jurisdiction in stopping the game, said his boss, West Coast Umpires Association chairman Bill DeCosta.
"He was justified for ejecting the coach, but he exceeded his authority in forfeiting the ballgame," DeCosta said. "He took a step further than he should have in forfeiting the ballgame. That's just not done.
"There are several criteria for forfeiting a game, but (simply) ejecting a coach isn't one of them. The district and area officials properly overruled him to pick up the game where it ended at the end of the season if it figures in the final standings."
Kolacki also ejected Seminole Post 111 pitcher Steve Boyles when Boyles confronted the unpire after the game was stopped. DeCosta said he was not aware of that , but that it would be up to district administrators to punish Boyles if they deemed that he acted with improper deference to Kolacki.
The wacky finish failed to resolve the district race. Post 111 is 11-2 overall and leads the district with a 5-1 mark. Post 248 is 5-7 overall, but at 3-1 in district play is within striking distance of Post 111.
Under the lights: Despite its rich history, West Tampa Post 248 had never had night baseball until last week. Even former Jefferson High and West Tampa Post 248 alumni such as major-leaguers Fred McGriff and Tino Martinez played only day baseball at Rene Martinez Sr. Field.
That all ended Monday when former Tampa Catholic right-hander Erik Ronne led West Tampa Post 248 to a 2-1 defeat of Manatee Post 24 under the lights at Rene Martinez Sr. Field. The second night game there was marred by Tuesday night's forfeit.
Luck played a part in procuring the lights, as Skyway Park in Town 'N Country was closed recently to make way for the new Veterans Expressway and its lights were available, saving about $20,000. Jefferson boosters raised about $22,000 for transportation and installation of those lights, Cuesta said.