Northeast could have very easily stayed in South Pinellas and played in the 10-team Steve Georgiadis baseball tournament. But that's not coach Bob Blair's style.
He knew his Vikings had a shot at winning the 16-team Dunedin Spring Tournament as evidenced by Northeast's 4-3 nine-inning win over Dunedin in the Falcons' preseason tournament. The second time around, Northeast appeared headed to the final as it outhit Dunedin again.
But the Falcons managed a 4-3 win on just three hits Wednesday, reaching the final of its tournament for the second straight year. There they'll play Pasco, a 13-3 winner over Countryside.
Coach Greg Nichols, who will retire after 27 years with the Falcons, will be playing for his 11th tournament title.
"I'm happy for my seniors because they have never won it," Nichols said.
Northeast (9-6) took a 3-2 lead when it loaded the bases in the sixth as Tim McKeckney drove in Jason Martin. But it was the combination of solid Falcon defense and Viking miscues that proved to be the difference. On the next play, Will Philp failed to tag up when Doug Waechter flew out to leftfield.
In the fourth, rightfielder Peter Nystrom gunned McKeckney at third base after Waechter flew out. That ended another Viking opportunity and kept the game tied at 2-2 as Northeast got just one run.
The Falcons (11-4) scored two in the bottom of the sixth without getting a hit. Nystrom walked, stole second and scored on a passed ball after Josh Kitterman sacrificed him to third. D DeSantis scored the winning run when Aaron Sobieraj, who Nichols calls the "unsung hero" of the team, hit a sac fly.
Sophomore Tyler Banks improved to 3-0 with the win. After a shaky start, Banks struck out the final two batters in the seventh with the tying run on second.
"We outplayed them again," Northeast coach Rob Blair said. "It's not a fluke. Nobody expected Northeast to be here. (The Vikings) expected to win, but we didn't."
SEMINOLE _ For a team that had five wins a year ago and is fieldling nine freshmen this season, St. Petersburg coach Stefen Futch knew it would take time for his young players to get experience.
Now, the Green Devils are experiencing a winning streak.
St. Petersburg beat Osceola 3-2 in the consolation bracket of the Steve Georgiadis Holiday Tournament for a share of third place with Clearwater Central Catholic. It was the Green Devils' second win in the past three games and they need one more victory to match last season's win total.
"We play a lot of young kids," Futch said. "We're in a rebuilding process and I think we're right on course. There have been a lot of close games and the team is starting to come along and gather momentum. They're starting to grow up a little bit."
Against the Warriors, John Stull gave up six hits and two runs to pick up his second win in the tournament. Mike Kidwell went 2-for-4 and scored twice for St. Petersburg.
In the other third-place game, the Marauders beat Leesburg 8-1. Aaron Diehl pitched a two-hitter and Patrick Boyd hit a three-run homer to lead CCC.
_ BOB PUTNAM
Gildersleeve, Hyypio sign
Jenni Gildersleeve, the Times All-Pinellas County Volleyball Player of the Year who led Clearwater to the Class 5A state final, signed with Campbell.
Rhegan Hyypio, a senior soccer player for Lakewood, signed with Marquette.
_ BOB PUTNAM