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Ridgewood finishes hat trick

Whether the debate was raging in Mike Rabelo's head or was actually being bandied about is still in question.

But one thing is for sure: Ridgewood's 7-2 victory over Land O'Lakes Wednesday night in the Class 5A, District 8 semifinals was huge for the Rams, who swept three games from their cross-county rivals this season.

"The controversy is over," said Rabelo, who got the four-hit, 10-strikeout victory. "People said the two times were a fluke. We knew we had to prove to everyone else that it wasn't."

It was a collaborative effort. Ridgewood got some timely hits, but Land O'Lakes gave the host Rams three first-inning runs on three errors and couldn't capitalize with runners on third base in the second and third innings.

The victory advanced Ridgewood (23-6) to the championship at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Ridgewood against Tarpon Springs (19-9), a 5-2 winner over Springstead.

Both teams are in the state regional playoffs. Friday's game is for at least one game at home. For Rabelo, it's also for pride.

"We still have a score to settle," he said of Tarpon Springs. "The last few years they handed it to us. We want the trophy. we want the banner in the gym. We want the letterhead. We want as much as we can get."

Leading 3-1 in the bottom of the second, Ridgewood got two runs on Bobby Weimer's single. It got two more in the third: one on Carl DiMartino's double and one on Jason Remmel's suicide squeeze off Brad Baisley, who had just come in to relieve starter Matt McCleary, to make the score 7-1.

In the second inning, Land O'Lakes (21-9) had a runner on third and two out. But Rabelo struck out Bruce Hierlmeier to end the threat.

Springstead (17-12) got three hits, including a two-run home run by Sean Stalton to take a 2-0 first-inning lead, but was no-hit the rest of the way by Tarpon Springs' Pat Hudspeth.

The Spongers got a two-run home run from Trevor Rhodes to tie the game in the bottom of the first inning. It also got a solo home run from Jon Godwin.

4A-7: Citrus holds off

Crystal River rally 12-9

DUNNELLON _ Trailing 8-0 after five innings, Crystal River rallied with six runs in the sixth inning before losing the district semifinal to top-seeded Citrus 12-9.

The Hurricanes (14-8) advance to Friday's 7 p.m. championship game. Crystal River ended its season 10-18.

"That was a wild one at the end," Citrus coach Mike Taylor said. "We would like to win a little nicer, but you have to give them credit; they came back and played hard."

Citrus took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. The Hurricanes added four runs in the fourth inning and two in the fifth. Leading by eight, Citrus seemed in control.

But Crystal River used six hits to score six runs in the sixth inning to pull to within two. But the rally was short-lived. In the seventh, Citrus scored four runs to seal its victory.

Crystal River had one last chance in the seventh, scoring three runs. The Pirates loaded the bases with no outs but were unable to pull out the win.

Citrus automatically advances to the regionals either as the district champion or runner-up.

_ ANTONYA ENGLISH

4A-8: Cimorelli leads

Buldogs to semifinals

ZEPHYRHILLS _ Bulldog sophomore catcher Brett Cimorelli tied a school record, going 4-for-4 with 5 RBI including a grand slam in the fourth and a bases-loaded walk in a six-run seventh as No. 5 seed Zephyrhills (11-17) rallied for a 12-8 win over No. 4 seed Hernando (13-15) at John F. Clements Field.

The Leopards, who swept two regular-season games, trailed 1-0 early but chased Bulldog starter Mike Stepp after 1 innings behind a seven-run second. Leopard senior Brent Ferguson's three-run triple highlighted the uprising.

But Zephyrhills chipped away on Brooks Boyette's run- scoring single in the third before Cimorelli cracked his fifth homer of the year off Hernando starter Kyle Tuttle, who went 6-plus innings.

Bulldogs senior right-hander Tim Bergman (2-1) hurled 5 innings of three-hit relief (all singles), permitting just one earned run, before the hosts solved a tiring Tuttle and John Drier (1-3) in the seventh.

"Tuttle gave us everything he could," Hernando coach Tim Sims said. "He wasn't coming out. But give Zephyrhills credit, it didn't matter if they were down 17-0, they never quit."

Bergman added, "The difference was, we played this way the last 2{ weeks. This was a huge win because the guys refused to lose."

_ TONY CASTRO

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