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Post 79 lets good start on homestand get away

The second part of an eight-game homestand at Gulf High hardly compared to the first half for Paradise Post 79. The New Port Richey-based American Legion baseball team lost four games after going 3-1 to start the stretch.

Post 79, at 7-10 before Saturday's game against Safety Harbor Post 238 at Countryside High, plays St. Petersburg Post 14 today at 1 p.m. at Northeast High.

Paradise manager Ken Courter is fielding makeshift lineups lately, primarily due to missing four players on a vacation to Cancun, Mexico. Additionally, shortstop Ray Wilken has been out sick for the past two games and centerfielder Nate Shipman left the team last week to sign a professional contract with the Detroit Tigers.

Third baseman Brooks Derousie, second baseman Brian Sullivan and left-handed pitchers Kevin Abrams and Nick Valouse should be back from their trip in time for Wednesday night's game against Dunedin Post 275 at the Englebert Complex.

"That will give me a chance to get all my guys back, so we'll see what happens then," Courter said. "We've been going downhill. I've had to put together a lineup of whoever I could find and whoever could play. Until these guys get back, I've just got to play with what I've got."

Post 79's recent losses were to Post 14 (16-8), Post 238 (16-10), Madeira Beach Post 273 (12-4) and Gulfport Post 125 (5-2).

Courter was forced to use three pitchers and catcher Mike Rabelo in the infield the past two games. That put 15-year-old backup catcher Ron Weimer behind the plate.

Jason Abeles, a pitcher who played shortstop, hit a two-run single against Gulfport. And despite throwing more than 100 pitches, David Draksler hurled a two-hitter through seven innings in that loss.

T.J. Tucker went 3-for-5 against Safety Harbor. Before leaving for their trip, Derousie went 4-for-5 and Sullivan 3-for-5 against St. Petersburg.

Derousie leads the team with a .422 batting average. The infielder from Ridgewood also has four home runs and 10 doubles.

"He's really hammering the baseball," Courter said.

Sullivan is hitting .357 with eight doubles, followed by Tucker (.342) and Draksler (.319). Shaun Poole is 9-for-19 for a .472 average.

"(Poole) hasn't had a lot of at-bats, but he will now," Courter said.

Brian Rushe was scheduled to pitch Saturday's game and Courter tabbed Abeles for today's start.

"He's starting to throw real good," Courter said of Abeles, who has two of Paradise's seven wins.

Becoming one of the top two teams in District 16, which carries an automatic playoff spot, is almost out of reach for Post 79. Nevertheless, Courter feels his team is still competitive.

"We'll just make our run toward the end and see what happens," he said.

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