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Titan offensive numbers as large as their name

The Tampa Bay Tech Titans are 12-11. Those numbers aren't scary.

But mention TBT's top-heavy lineup to any coach in Hillsborough County. Watch the heads shake in wonder.

First baseman Stephen Williams is hitting .529 with seven home runs and 42 RBI. He narrowly missed winning the Western Conference's triple crown. He led in homers and RBI, but Sickles junior Jeff Lucas hit .531.

Shortstop Edwin Kain is hitting .522 with 31 runs scored and 14 stolen bases.

Centerfielder John Curry is hitting .452 with 10 stolen bases.

Now those numbers are scary.

"They can score runs in bunches," Gaither coach Frank Permuy. "They're definitely a team that needs to be watched. When their offense is clicking, they can be really tough."

The operative question: Which TBT team will show up for this week's Class 6A, District 5 baseball tournament at Gaither? The Titans got the No. 1 seed on a tiebreaker and need only to win Wednesday's semifinal game to enter the state playoffs.

"It has been sort of an odd season," said Williams, TBT's third-place batter. "For the most part, it has been more good than bad. We've shown glimpses of how we can play. But now is the time to turn it on. Now is the time to get noticed."

That's true for TBT _ and Williams.

Despite his dynamic season, Williams has attracted interest from just local colleges. He's realistic enough not to hope for big things in the amateur draft _ "First, I want to make sure I have a place to go to school" _ but hopeful enough to realize that his stock could take a big jump if TBT goes deep into the playoffs.

"I just need to keep hitting," he said.

That's what he has done since age 5, through his years playing at Temple Terrace and Forest Hills youth leagues. He used to take 200 pitches a day from his father, Dave, while trying to refine his swing. The regimen eventually prompted elbow surgery for his father. The swing kept getting better.

The turning point was last summer. He worked with David Kent, the former Jesuit coach, who now owns a baseball training business called "The Hitting Zone."

"My big thing is to fight off bad habits, to not fall into a slump," Williams said. "David Kent helps me with that. I feel like the change has been night and day. It has been that much improvement in a year. My confidence really shot up.

"Individually, it has been the kind of senior year I was hoping for. But a lot of credit has to go to the guys who hit in front of me (Kain, Curry). Without them, there's no way I would have this many RBI. Pitchers see those guys as a threat on the bases, so it makes my job easier. If we're all clicking together, we can go a long way."

Williams said TBT wants to forget its inconsistency, which was accentuated by Tuesday's 7-6 loss at Plant City in the regular-season finale. The night almost was disastrous. Williams was injured in a collision at first base and he initially feared a broken bone. But a badly sprained wrist was the diagnosis.

"I just need some rest, but I should be fine for the district tournament," Williams said. "I just want to come out swinging. Really, our whole team does."

When the Titans swing with consistency, the opponents often are shaken. For that reason, they might be the most feared team in 6A-5. You never know what will happen.

"It's tough to get some of their guys out," said Brandon coach Greg Parris, whose Eagles lost twice to TBT. "They're definitely a team to watch."

Elsewhere in baseball district tournaments, the 5A-11 event at Armwood should be a highlight. Durant, the Western Conference champion, opens with Plant, the Saladino Tournament champion, Wednesday at 4.

Host Armwood got the top seed _ and a first-round bye _ on a tiebreaker. Other teams include Jefferson, East Bay, Lakeland and Lakeland Jenkins.

"It's going to be a war," Armwood coach Joey Fernandez said. "It has to be one of the better district tournaments around."

Brandon, Bloomingdale and Plant City will head to the 6A-6 tournament in Bradenton, while Sickles faces the 5A-8 field at Ridgewood.

Other Hillsborough County teams expected to make the state playoffs are Jesuit, Tampa Catholic, Berkeley Prep, Tampa Prep and Seminole Presbyterian.

In softball, Bloomingdale, last season's 6A state finalist, will try to regain its perch at the 6A-6 tournament in Bradenton. The 6A-5 tournament at Gaither could come down to Gaither, Chamberlain or King.

And the 5A-11 tournament could feature the season's fourth meeting between WC champion East Bay and Plant.

Last season's state champions, Tampa Catholic in 3A and Seminole Presbyterian in A, should cruise to district titles. Others to watch are Sickles in 5A-8, Wharton in 4A-12, Academy of the Holy Names in 3A-9 and Tampa Prep in 2A-10.

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