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Rams' MacLane: "He's mean' on the mound

It is game day at Ridgewood High School, and Tommy MacLane has a lot to do.

The Rams senior has to put up the American flag on the centerfield pole. He has to loosen up his left arm _ his pitching arm _ with a 6-pound shot put.

He has to guard the gate on the first-base side of the field so opposing teams cannot cross to get to their dugout, forcing them to walk the long way around the backstop.

If the public address system isn't working, he'll tend to that as well.

MacLane doesn't have any real down time until the game is under way, when he waits for the call from coach Larry Beets to bail out a struggling starter.

"I don't want to be the team leader," MacLane said, "but I want to contribute to it."

His contributions have been hard to miss. MacLane has not started a game this season, yet he is 6-2 with a 1.23 ERA. The relief work has earned him the nickname "Scavenger" because, as starting pitcher Mike Rabelo said, "He scavenges wins off other people."

MacLane doesn't like the name, and it does seem to trivialize what he does best, which is to hold opposing teams in check while waiting for the Rams' big bats to come to the rescue.

It is a talent that may come in handy in the Class 5A, District 8 tournament that starts today at Ridgewood, where pitching depth may be the difference between winning and losing.

MacLane throws in the mid to high 80s. But it's his pugnacious, competitive side that has led to much of his success.

"He's a bulldog," Rabelo said. "He gets down 3-0 and he can still put that guy in the books. He's mean."

He also has a knack for pulling himself out of dangerous situations. In a recent game against Pasco, MacLane got out of a none-out, bases-loaded jam by striking out three in a row. He picked up a 4-3 victory in the process.

Three days earlier against Hudson, MacLane faced runners on first and second with one out. A strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out double play ended the threat. Six batters and five strikeouts later, Ridgewood had a 1-0 victory and MacLane had the save.

Which brings us to another nickname: "Psycho."

"The way I look at it, I'm a psycho because I like to go in in pressure situations," said MacLane, who has 72 strikeouts in 40 innings. "Call me a------ for all I care. I'm still going to perform."

Which brings us to yet another nickname: "DJ Tom."

MacLane said he has spent "thousands of dollars" on stereo equipment that lets him mix his own musical arrangements. "I love music," he said. "It's my hobby."

Other hobbies: painting the entire outfield wall at Ridgewood's stadium; sitting in the middle of a circle of Rams players and screaming out the team stretches.

And what about this stuff about not wanting teams to walk across Ridgewood's field?

"It's like somebody walking through your house. I find it disrespectful," MacLane said. "Anywhere you go you should show respect for your opponent. You don't like them, but you have some respect."

Sometimes things don't work out, like against East Lake last week when MacLane gave up a run in the seventh to take a 6-5 loss.

No bother.

"Get me once," he said. "But I'm going to get you more than you get me."



WHERE: Ridgewood High School.

WHEN: Today-Friday.

SCHEDULE: Today _ Land O'Lakes vs. River Ridge, 2 p.m.; Springstead vs. Gulf, 5 p.m.; Tarpon Springs vs. Sickles, 8 p.m. Wednesday _ Tarpon Springs-Sickles winner vs. Springstead-Gulf winner, 4 p.m.; Ridgewood vs. Land O'Lakes-River Ridge winner, 7:30 p.m. Friday _ Championship, 7:30 p.m.

WHAT TO WATCH: The marquee matchup may take place in the semifinals when Land O'Lakes and Ridgewood could meet for a third time. The top-seeded Rams have beaten Land O'Lakes twice this season, taking one game each from pitchers Brad Baisley and Matt McCleary. Land O'Lakes coach Cal Baisley said he'll throw his son Brad today against River Ridge. One game after being no-hit by Clearwater, Tarpon Springs beat Dixie Hollins to claim the Pinellas County Athletic Conference title. River Ridge (5-18) has won three of its last six.