Todd Alexander was cruising along with a one-hitter when a light rain sprinkled over Lake Vista Park in the sixth inning Tuesday night. The Dixie Hollins junior had made fast work of St. Petersburg the first five innings and was six outs away from advancing to Thursday's Class 5A, District 10 final.
But with the rain came a change in attitude for the Green Devils. One day removed from a stunning come-from-behind win over Lakewood where St. Petersburg trailed 6-1 in the seventh inning, the Devils threatened to shock the Rebels.
Trailing 2-0, St. Petersburg scored three in the sixth and took a precarious lead over the No. 1 seed. But Dixie Hollins got a bases-loaded, two-out single from Ray Searage, which scored David Bradbury and Joe Deese for the 5-3 victory.
Dixie (16-10) still needed to fend off Stefan Futch's feisty Devils in the seventh, however. St. Petersburg looked poised to make another comeback before Ron Zimmer was forced at second base on Greg Landosky's grounder.
Zimmer slid into second and his cleats popped up, prompting Dixie Hollins coach Jonathan Wiggins to appeal that Landosky be called out at first due to the high-school rule that forbids sliding with the cleats up. The umpires convened and after a discussion, ruled Landosky out and took the fire out of the Green Devils.
"It's bad that something has to be done like that," Wiggins said. "But it's part of the rules."
St. Petersburg finished with just three hits, including run-scoring singles by Joe Jiannetti and Shea Gibbs. Sophomores Jason Natelle and Tony Spittle combined on a five-hitter for the Devils (10-14).
In the other semifinal, Gibbs defeated Northeast 5-2. Boof Bonser (8-2) pitched a four-hitter and struck out nine. Gibbs faces defending district champion Dixie Hollins Thursday at 7 for the title.
Gibbs (15-8) never trailed as a three-run third inning gave them the lead. Leo Neuner hit a two-run single, scoring Bryan Taylor and Joey Lebrecht.
"We've been struggling in the bottom part of our order," Gibbs coach Bob Shaw said. "We've been dead past our top four. I guess they proved me wrong."
5A-8: Rhodes keys Tarpon
NEW PORT RICHEY _ Trevor Rhodes blasted a homer in the fifth to break up a perfect game by Sickles' Casey McKenzie to give Tarpon Springs a 1-0 win at Ridgewood.
The Spongers (18-9) face Sprinsgtead (17-11), a 12-2 winner over Gulf, in the semifinals at 4 p.m. today. Top-seeded Ridgewood (22-6) faces Land O'Lakes (21-8), a 13-2 winner over River Ridge, at 7:30.
McKenzie (6-2) retired the first 12 batters before Rhodes hit his third homer of the season to right-centerfield. McKenzie allowed two hits, struck out six and walked one. Winner Steve Richie (4-1) struck out five and allowed three hits, two to Mike Chambliss.
_ DAMIAN CRISTODERO
4A-12: Osceola tops PHU
TAMPA _ Osceola (13-14) rallied from two runs down in the seventh to force extra innings, then won on a two-out, bases-loaded single by Steve Civello in the bottom of the eighth to gain a berth in the final. Jon Cross (5-2) picked up the win in relief of starter Bryan Serata, who worked six.
Palm Harbor University (8-15) took a 4-2 lead in the sixth on a two-run double by Nick Bell. But the Hurricanes committed five errors, including two in the bottom of the seventh that allowed the Warriors to tie it.
"The guys have been playing very well the past couple of weeks," said Osceola coach Chris Wiseman. "They came out focused and ready and they knew they could do it."
Gerald Frazier had an run-scoring triple in the first for Osceola, and Johnny Collins had a run-scoring double in the fourth. Chris Huber's run-scoring single was the key hit in the Warriors' seventh-inning rally.
Host Jesuit defeated Robinson 13-0 in the other semifinal and will meet Osceola in Thursday's final.
_ TODD TUBERGEN
3A-9: Berkeley edges SPC
TAMPA _ Losing a coin flip almost cost Berkeley Prep a post-season berth.
Though the Bucs (19-5) tied Clearwater Central Catholic for the district title, they were forced to play scrappy St. Petersburg Catholic (12-16) to advance to the final. In the end, the Bucs barely outlasted the Barons 3-2, and will play CCC on Thursday.
Though there was little offense, the Bucs hits were timely. With two out in the second, Steve Gendron reached on an error.
Gary Goodner followed with a high flyball that drifted over the rightfield fence, giving the Bucs a 2-0 lead.
"We made some mistakes, but we had out chances," SPC coach Mike Hoffman said. "Both teams in our district (beat us by 10 runs) in our last two games, so I'm really proud of the way this team played tonight."
The Barons managed single runs in the third and fifth, but stranded five in scoring position.
_ DAVID MANACK
2A-10: Northside wins
TAMPA _ Northside Christian wiggled out of jams in the fifth, sixth, and seventh, picked up some timely late hits and edged Temple Heights 6-4.
Mustang reliever Chris Wiggins pitched out of a jam when he entered with the score tied at 4 and two runners on in the fifth. And in the seventh with two runners on, he froze the Eagles' Scott Silence with a breaking ball for a called-third strike to end the game.
Wiggins (2-7) was the spark plug on offense as well. Pinch-hitting in the fourth, he doubled and scored on two passed balls to tie the score at 4. His next time up, he singled with two out in the sixth, advanced to second on an error, moved to third on a wild pitch, then scored the lead run on another Temple Heights error.
The Mustangs (8-16) got an insurance run in the seventh after Marc Gillette doubled, then scored on a Rob McNeal grounder that turned into a three-base error when the Eagles' first baseman misplayed it.
Temple Heights (11-9) scored all its runs in the third.
_ ERIC RANGUS
A-10: routs rule day
ST. PETERSBURG _ Keswick Christian and Shorecrest advanced to the championship with respective 16-9 and 10-1 semifinal victories over Canterbury and Indian Rocks Christian.
Down six early, Keswick amassed base hits, a double and five RBI in the top of the third inning to take the lead at 7-6. Christian Osburn's double scored two runs that turned the momentum.
Canterbury managed three more runs in the fifth to no avail. Keswick exploded in the next inning, scoring nine runs and winning 16-9.
With a steady effort by Shorecrest pitcher Jim Pollard and four strikeouts by closer Paul Sibley in the last two innings, Indian Rocks was held to one run.
Shorecrest pulled away in the fifth with six base hits and five more runs. Good hitting by Jamie Suarez, Danny Owen and Byron Kiefer, who had two doubles, helped produce the victory.
_ ED REED
Nichols' number retired
Dunedin retired former coach Greg Nichols' number Tuesday. He coached for 26 years and won more than 500 games and was a state runner-up last year. He joins Scott Hemond as the only Falcon to have his jersey retired.