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Pinellas teams eye state berths in tough finals // SHORECREST

By now, the whole baseball world knows about the accolades Miami Westminster Christian has accumulated. You might call the Warriors a high school dynasty, sculpted for the past 29 years by their potentate, coach Rich Hofman.

Hofman has sent 67 players on to play at the collegiate level, and 19 more have been drafted. His teams have won five state titles since 1988 and are routinely ranked among the best in the nation.

Perhaps the most impressive conquest for Westminster Christian is its 36-0-1 record that paved the way for last year's state title and mythical national championship according to three polls. The Warriors extended their undefeated streak to 60 games when they started this year 23-0.

Shorecrest coach Bill Van Aman is well aware of that legacy. He will get a chance to see it first-hand when the Warriors visit Shorecrest today at 4 p.m. for the right to move on to the Class 2A state final four.

"We heard everything there is to hear about it," Van Aman said. "We have nothing to lose."

For the Chargers, the upside to the Westminster tale is the fact they are catching the Warriors at just the right time. The Warriors have proven to be less than invincible lately, winning just four of their last nine games, running their record to 27-4-1.

And in the last decade, Westminster _ which dropped from atop the state poll to fifth _ hasn't won a state crown in an odd-numbered year.

"That kind of scares me more than anything," Van Aman said.

With a sporadic 17-13 club, Van Aman said three weeks ago that his assistant coaches were making alternative plans for tomorrow with the notion the Chargers might not make it this far.

But they have and Van Aman credits team unity. He said the pitching of Byron Kiefer (6-5), who will go today, and Jim Pollard (4-2) has carried Shorecrest to this point. And team captains Jorge Giroud and Christian Blonshine have given the Chargers a mental edge by bringing the team together.

Shorecrest is shooting for its third final four appearance of the 1990s, and for real inspiration all it needs to do is look back at the 1989 season. Van Aman was an assistant coach then and Shorecrest defeated the Westminster power 9-3 to win the Class A state title.

"That is kind of a real similar scenario," Van Aman said. "They certainly are the premier team to beat. If our guys don't give in to the hype and awe, we can hang in there."