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Jones makes his pitch to help Madeira Beach

When Greg Jones stood on the mound for the first time of the season last week, he felt pretty comfortable.

After all, throwing is what he has done best.

Only it usually has been from behind the plate where the 6-foot-1, 170-pounder has stood out with his quick delivery and arm strength while playing for Seminole High and Madeira Beach Post 273.

But the 17th-round draft pick of the California Angels and Pasco-Hernando Community College signee stepped on the hill against Pasco 79 for the final inning of a game and struck out the side with plain old-fashioned speed.

"The kid can bring it, no question," said Steve Winterling, the Pasco-Hernando Community College coach. "I was very, very encouraged when I saw him throw last week. We're going to look at his pitching a lot and I think he can be a part of our pitching plans."

Jones' performance strengthened Madeira Beach coach Dave Pano's potent pitching staff.

"We've toyed with the idea of putting him on the mound as our closer all year," said Pano, whose team is 20-5 overall and leads the conference with a 13-1 mark. "We just wanted to get him some work because he does have a live arm and he is another arm we can use. He knows that is his strength."

Despite the glorious reputation he carried behind the plate, Jones had one as ominous when swinging. Overpowered fooled by opposing pitchers, Jones hit .203 during the high school season.

But Jones has been working on changing that this summer with his .370 average, two home runs and 23 RBI. In a recent game against Safety Harbor Post 238, Jones collected four hits in five trips to the plate.

"I credit a lot of my success at the plate to coach (Jeff) Petzoldt," Jones said. "He has helped me with my mental approach and made me mentally tougher as I've also become more aggressive, which I needed to do."

Winding Down: Post 273 is certainly in the driver's seat with a 13-1 conference mark. It could go a long way toward sealing the division with a victory tonight over Safety Harbor Post 238 (7-6). The battle now is for second-place as surprising St. Petersburg Post 14 is in charge with an 8-3 mark. It played a doubleheader against Clearwater Post 7 (0-10) Tuesday night. Gulfport Post 125 (7-6) and 238 still have an outside shot at gaining the second-place spot, which is important since the top two teams receive automatic berths in the Southwest Area Tournament. Teams must play 20 games in the conference.

Around the bases: B. J. Leach hit his eighth homer of the season for Post 273 and has thrown two shutouts against Safety Harbor Post 238. Madeira Beach has outscored Safety Harbor 26-0 in those two games. . . . Ryan Snellings of Post 273 is 4-0 on the mound. . . . Post 273 has hit 25 homers as a team. . . . Matt Hanson of Post 238 is leaving to play in the Connie Mack League in Texas.

What a preview: St. Petersburg PAL (13-4) will gear up for its state tournament (July 10-14) by playing in the highly competitive Bradenton American Legion Tournament this weekend. The tournament includes some notable teams such as Miami and Puerto Rico. St. Petersburg (16-under team) will play Spring Hill at 9 a.m. on Friday and South Miami at 5 p.m. It also will play two games on Saturday. St. Petersburg, winner of five consecutive state titles and three national championships, has turned 13 doubleplays with Jeremy Kurella, John Vigue and Vic Carapazza. George Godsey of Tampa Jesuit has 29 hits to lead the team. . . . Rick Stegbauer of Seminole returns from a pulled hamstring.