Pasco High baseball coach Ricky Giles remembers the week quite vividly. His Pirates were talented and young but their participation in the Easter Tournament in Dunedin two years ago was a disaster.
Pasco was beaten three straight times. Badly.
"We went there and were whipped pretty good," said Giles. "But now we're back, with a different team and a different outlook. Now we feel like we have matured and we have a good chance to play with those teams. We want to avenge those losses."
The Pirates will get an early shot when they open the tournament against Dixie Hollins at the Englebert Complex in Dunedin at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Three other county schools _ River Ridge, Ridgewood and Zephyrhills _ also will be in the 12-team round-robin tournament. Sunshine Athletic Conference rival Springstead also is participating.
"We want to get that first win against Dixie Hollins," Giles said. "It will be important for the guys to start off with a win. If we can keep down the errors we will be able to play with anybody."
The Pirates go into the tournament sure of one thing: senior leadership. Of the regular starters, seven are seniors and five are three-year starters.
Pasco, which was to play Gulf tonight at 7 in an SAC game, has two senior starting pitchers in Daniel Boyd (4-1) and Raul Cruz (3-1), and two other arms in Kendale Antoine and Bobby Smith. At the plate, the Pirates look to the combination of speed (Deshawn Southward and A.J. Jones) and power (Rob Roberts, Jeff Crutcher and Boyd).
"As a team we are hitting .320," Giles said. "But I really think we can get that up to about .350. We're going to make a run at it. It's a great chance to see how we perform against teams outside Pasco County and against different competition."
The Dunedin tournament should provide that same opportunity for River Ridge's standout pitcher, T.J. Tucker, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound right-hander with a 91-mph fastball.
"I think this will be a big tournament," Tucker said. "There will be a number of scouts out there and I want to have a good performance."
The Royal Knights face Countryside at 7 p.m. Saturday at Englebert.
"Ever since T.J. has been with us he has not been healthy to play in this tournament," River Ridge coach Jack Homko said. "He knows how important it is, but I don't think we need to put any more pressure on him. He has this audience traveling around with him and calling him so we don't want to put more pressure."
The Knights will face district rival Springstead tonight at 7.
Ridgewood, which opens the Dunedin tournament against Clearwater in Dunedin Stadium at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, faces Zephyrhills tonight at 7:30. The Bulldogs will meet top seed Dunedin at 3 p.m. Saturday at Dunedin Stadium.
UNDER THE EYE: As a fullback/safety, Southward was one of the quicker members of Pasco's Sunshine Athletic Conference championship football team. That speed, and a cannon arm, are beginning to turn heads. Major league scouts are regulars at his games.
"This is the first time since I have been here that I have seen scouts at practice," Giles said. "I think they like his speed and aggressiveness in the outfield and on the bases. But I tell you what, they really like his arm. Deshawn has a gun from out there. He has the best arm I have seen around here in a long time."
Giles said the Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Cleveland Indians are routine callers and visitors.
THREE IN A ROW, COUNTING: Hudson coach Jay Collins has been saying all season that his team has been playing well, just not getting the breaks. Now, it seems, the Cobras are getting those breaks.
Hudson (5-6) has won three straightsince a 7-2 defeat of River Ridge last Tuesday. Last Friday the Cobras got a grand slam from Derrick Victor as part of a six-run fourth and rolled to an 11-1 win over Gulf. Victor went 3-for-5 with four RBI and left-hander Shaun Poole (3-3), who Thursday signed with Polk Community College, pitched a complete game four-hitter with 13 strikeouts for the win.Jerry Rhodes added a double and three RBI.
On Tuesday, Victor went 2-for-4 with three RBI and Karl Sabo (2-1) struck out four over seven innings as the Cobras prevailed 5-3 over Ridgewood.
"We did a few things differently over the last week and it seems to be working," Collins said. "I try to have the kids relax. It's a good team that just did not have any luck at the start of the season. Now some things seem to be going our way."