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PHCC fizzles 10-5 as SPJC gets state berth

Out of pitchers and, as coach Steve Winterling said, out of options, Pasco-Hernando Community College finally ran out of gas.

The Conquistadors fell 10-5 to visiting St. Petersburg Junior College on Monday to lose the best-of-three Suncoast Conference playoff series 2-1. St. Petersburg advanced to the state tournament for the first time since 1977, first-year coach Dave Pano said.

"They have a very good club, but they had the upper hand pitching-wise," Winterling said. "I really felt we were going to win given the way we responded (Sunday) in tough circumstances."

After losing Game 1 Saturday, PHCC (31-12) beating SPJC 22-9 to extend the series to a third game.

But the Conquistadors pitching staff has been severely short-handed most of the season due to injuries. So, facing its third game in as many days, and with its three healthy pitchers already used, Winterling turned, as he has for much of the season, to position players to take the mound.

Second baseman Raul Cruz, shortstop Mike Aranda and centerfielder Jason Branch were effective this season. But the three could not hold down St. Petersburg (26-16-1).

Cruz allowed three runs in the first inning, two on a double by Oscar Ramirez, whom Cruz then balked home. It was 4-0 in the second inning on Andrew Beattie's sacrifice fly. By the end of the fourth it was 6-0.

PHCC fought back against winning pitcher Pete Moroudis, getting three runs in the fifth on an error, a passed ball and Branch's run-scoring single. It got one more in the sixth on back-to-back doubles by Zack Roper and Aranda to make the score 6-4.

But that was as close as PHCC would get.

"I'm elated," Pano said. "There's been a lot of hard work trying to turn this program around. All that work is paying off now."

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