The sound of aluminum bats crushing fastballs and the sight of disappointed pitchers walking off the mound could become common among the county's Class 2A and A baseball teams.
That's because a plethora of top hitters return after successful 1993 outings. Bayshore Christian, Berkeley Prep, Seminole Presbyterian and Tampa Prep have players who hit over .400 last season.
The pitching? Unproven is the most appropriate word. There are only three returnees who had an earned-run average under 3.00. Combine the quality hitting with the suspect pitching and the result could be high-scoring affairs.
In Class 2A, District 8, Tampa Catholic is in a sprawling eight-team district with Berkeley, Tampa Prep, St. Petersburg Catholic, Sarasota Cardinal Mooney, Frostproof, Fort Meade and Lake Placid.
Between 1968 and 1982, Tampa Catholic won seven state baseball championships and remained competitive through most of the 1980s. But the Crusaders have struggled in recent years. First-year coach Rick Ware, who played on Hillsborough Community College's 1988 national championship team, would like to help TC return to those glory days.
"We have some decent talent, we just have to put it all together and gel as a team," Ware said. "I'm trying to bring that tradition back, but nothing comes easy."
The decent talent includes outfielder Frank Deluna, first baseman Jason Martinez and catchers Kerry Hartunian and Manny Garcia, who hit .347 as a freshman last year.
Top pitchers Kenny Robinson and Jonathan Elsner return, and Ware also is expecting to get good innings from Bloomingdale transfer Justin Leavell. Ware said speed should be a key for the Crusaders.
Berkeley appears strong up the middle with senior catcher Andres Prida (.433 in 1993), junior shortstop Chad Herrod and second baseman Mike Uzdivines (.615). Sophomore pitcher Brad Hall, who earned his first win in a 5-4 victory against TC Saturday, may provide the Bucs with the mound strength they need to compete.
Tampa Prep had its first winning season in recent memory last year and is now hoping for more under second-year coach Don Meixner. Shortstop Taro Radke (.474) returns along with seniors Dan Adkins, Scott Stone and Ed Dalton. Dalton and Adkins will play outfield and pitch.
Four Tampa teams will battle in Class A, District 9. Bayshore Christian, Tampa Baptist, Seminole Presbyterian and Temple Heights join Lakeland Christian and defending district champion Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic.
Temple Heights will operate under new coach John Zeller. The Eagles lost second baseman Scott Phillips, but return these seniors: infielder Tim Newell, outfielder Jason Russell and pitcher Kurt Schaer. Schaer had an 0.57 ERA last year and Russell hit .333.
Bayshore's best returning pitcher has an ERA of 5.80, but newcomer Tavares White, a 6-foot-9 basketball player, will take the mound for the Faith Warriors. Catcher Roderick Lewis, who hit .585, also returns, as does first baseman Ernie Matos (.460).
Seminole Presbyterian coach Tom Frieswyk wants his team to improve on last year's 12-6 mark. The Lancers reached the district semifinals before losing to Temple on a suicide play. Shortstop Pete Hilton (.443) and infielder Steve Carow (.405) are among players hoping to help better that finish.
TOP RETURNING HITTERS
Mike Uzdivinez, Berk. .615
Roderick Lewis, Bay. .585
Taro Radke, TP .474
Ernie Matos, Bay. .460
Pete Hilton, Sem. .443
Andres Prida, Berk. .433
Steve Carow, Sem. .405
Joe Taggart, Berk. .386
Ian Mattice, Sem. .364
Chad Herrod, Berk. .356
Manuel Garcia, T.C. .347
Ronnie Letaw, Bay. .342
Brad Hall, Berk. .333
Chad O'Brien, Berk. .323
TOP RETURNING PITCHERS
Kurt Schaer, TH 0.57
Ryan Pressly, TH 2.58
Chad O'Brien, Berk. 2.97