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BATTERS BEWARE! // TC's Regan set for semis

Paul Regan looks like a big strong man with an 85-mph fastball _ until you get up close to his baby face.

Regan, as you eventually learn, is only a 16-year-old sophomore.

But then, you look at his stats: 10-3 record, 1.72 ERA, 107 strikeouts and 32 walks in 85 innings, .391 batting average, three homers, 20 RBI and 24 runs.

"Sure, he has all the physical tools," Tampa Catholic coach Chuck Yingling said of the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Regan. "But he also is very mentally tough. He is always ready for battle, no matter who he's going against."

It seems the only thing young about Regan is his age and his game face, which he will wear Monday at 8 p.m. against Pensacola Catholic in the Class 3A state semifinal at Sarasota's Ed Smith Stadium.

If the Crusaders (21-9) win, they play for the state title Tuesday at 5 p.m.

"It's just another big game in a fancy stadium," Regan said. "I'm just going into it like I always have; just give it all I have."

That usually means big trouble for the opponent. In Tampa Catholic's last three state playoff victories, Regan has thrown complete games, given up one earned run, 12 hits and struck out 29.

And his last two victories _ 9-1 against Avon Park and 7-1 against Cardinal Newman _ came on only four days rest.

"Four days rest was no problem," said Regan, who will have six days rest before Monday's game. "I'm used to coming in with little rest for the big games."

In one of the many ironic twists with this precocious player, Regan never pitched full-time until last summer for American Legion Post 152.

"I was always a catcher," he said. "I always played with older kids who were pitchers. I knew I could do it, but I guess I had to wait my turn."

He might still have been waiting, if he didn't switch schools last year from Jesuit to TC.

"I may have played a little on Jesuit's varsity this year," Regan said. "But I doubt I would have the same type of year I had here."

Regan said there was no doubt about where he was going when Yingling, an assistant at Jesuit from 1990-95, took the head coaching position at Tampa Catholic.

"Coach Yingling has been with me in baseball for many, many years," Regan said. "I wanted to play wherever he was coaching."

"He is among the most mature sophomore pitchers I've ever coached," said Yingling, who has been coaching for 25 years. "He's been just a pleasure, a pure pleasure."

Tampa Catholic (21-9) vs. Pensacola Catholic (22-7)

WHAT: Class 3A state baseball semifinal.

WHEN: Monday, 8 p.m.

WHERE: Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota.

NOTES: Tampa Catholic is in its first state final four in 10 years with the help of Paul Regan and a solid offensive team. Regan had complete game victories in the district semifinal, regional semifinal and final. Eight players are hitting .400 or better. Of the Crusaders' nine losses, only two were to Class 3A teams. Only Key West and Avon Park (both with eight titles) have won more championships than TC. PC will choose a starter between two standout seniors: Trae Curry (10-2) and Paul St. Amant (10-2). The team's offense is sparked by catcher Doug Bates and shortstop Jake Addams. Bates (.402, 26 RBI) is a Florida State signee while Addams (.370, 27 RBI) is equally adept in the field and at the plate.