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Terriers hope to "Battle' further in state playoffs

In football, Hillsborough's Dexter Battle and Morris Harris formed one of the county's most potent running attacks.

The powerful Battle would break tackles up the middle to gain his yards, while Harris combined fleet feet with determination to get past defenders.

Now Battle will use his power to drive in runs. And the fleet feet of Harris could be a defensive key in the Terriers' outfield. Combine those athletic talents with nifty shortstop Louis Martinez and the pitching arms of Chris Manser, Aaron Long, Brian Hall and Tim Haner, and it's clear Hillsborough could be the class of the county.

Coach Billy Reed's team won Western Conference, district and regional titles last year before faltering to eventual state champion Sarasota in the sectional playoff. With all but three starters returning, the Terriers have reason to be optimistic.

Of course, the Terriers have the unfortunate task of being in the county's most competitive district. Brandon, Chamberlain and perhaps Gaither could contend for 5A-6 and WC American Division honors.

Pro and college scouts had a field day picking among the Eagles' bountiful harvest of seniors, but there was still some talent left. Left-handed pitcher Scott Glaser returns as does centerfield Ryan McCoy (.317) and shortstop Christian Diaz (.290). But unproven pitchers Michael Korte and Brian Spoto will have to provide depth behind Glaser.

Versatile Todd Jordan (.322, 2.21 ERA) returns for Chamberlain and the Chiefs also will have the services of Gaither transfer Kenny Nightlinger (0.70). Beyond those two, the Chiefs have little experience.

"Virtually every returning letterman has seen no actual high school action," Chamberlain coach Mike Duran said. "But a good off-season conditioning program has helped keep us together as a team."

Class 5A, District 7

Bloomingdale, which lost to Hillsborough in last year's regional playoff, and East Bay should be the top county contenders. The hit parade of Mac Mackiewitz and Josh Etheredge returns as does pitcher Mike Valdes (1.40). Mackiewitz (2.05) also will pitch for Bloomingdale.

East Bay had surprising success last year, but the Indians' performance will shock only if they don't play well. Coach David Pittman brings back three players who hit over .300 last year: first baseman Kevin Milford, third baseman Joe Pina and centerfielder Josh Stanley. But the pitching will be suspect until newcomers Chris Justice, Ryan Brandon and Shawn Larrow establish themselves.

Class 4A, District 9

Here's a district with one perennial power trying to sustain its success and two traditional talents trying to recapture their glory days.

The perennial power is Jesuit, came within one out of playing for a state title last season. The Tigers lost a mini all-star team to graduation _ Troy Carrasco, Steve DeBoskey, John Pestalozzi, Marco Ramirez _ but there's still some guys who can play.

Offensively, Jason Michaels (.408), Brian Haught (.361) and Billy Gasparino (.345) should provide the scoring punch. Pitcher Craig Brown (0.84 ERA) returns but behind him are a host of unknowns hoping to make a name for themselves.

Jefferson and Plant are the two teams hoping for a reunion with their past greatness. The Dragons suffered their first losing season in 23 years under Coach Pop Cuesta. Outfielder Jason Sparks (.324) and pitcher Mike Diaz (.302, 2.24 ERA) could ignite some wins for Jefferson.

Plant has new coach in Garry Gawrych, but it has four players who hit over .300 in 1993, including first baseman/pitcher Josh Salmon (.333, 1.60 ERA).

Any discussion of 4A-9 contenders should also include Armwood, who returns catcher Pepe McNeal (.329) and infielder Kevin Urquhart (.320, 2.42 ERA). Newcomers T.J. LaFlamboy and Ted Key also should contribute.