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Wortz to play soccer at college in Ky.

Dean Wortz, who backstopped the River Ridge soccer team to two straight final four appearances, will compete for a starting job at Lindsey Wilson College next fall.

Wortz committed to the Columbia, Ky., school last weekend, but did not sign an athletic scholarship offer because his name was misspelled. He hopes to sign this week.

Wortz chose Lindsey Wilson, which won NAIA national championships in 1995 and 1996, over Fordham University in New York City after visiting both schools.

River Ridge coach Dave LaRoche, for one, feels his star goalkeeper made the right choice. "He'd be going from Pasco County to the Bronx (where Fordham is located). That's quite a jump," LaRoche said. "Dean's a laid-back kind of guy. I don't know how he'd handle that."

"I just think I'd be able to fit in better and find my way at Lindsey Wilson," said Wortz, adding that Columbia has a population of about 3,800 and is surrounded by mountains.

Wortz, an honor roll student, said Lindsey Wilson coach Ray Wells will give him a shot at starting.

A member of the Times All-North Suncoast and Sunshine Athletic Conference first teams, Wortz recorded six shutouts and posted a 1.23 goals-against average this season. While he had his share of standout games, he said he would remember River Ridge's "winning tradition and not being able to accept losing."

_ STEVE LEE

GATORS A BIG WINNER: Sickles did not stick around after beating River Ridge in Tuesday's Class 5A, District 8 softball quarterfinals, but if it had it would have witnessed an offensive explosion by its next opponent, Land O'Lakes.

The third-seeded Gators (12-12) routed sixth-seeded Springstead 18-0 to advance to Wednesday night's semifinals (see Section C for results). Prior to the game, Nicki Clevenger predicted that one of the Gators would hit a home run, and catcher Meg Reed was that player as she homered in the bottom of the fourth inning to lead the 15-hit attack.

Clevenger not only made the night's best prediction, she also tripled twice and drove in three runs in the five-inning game. Leftfielder Erin Leslie also had three RBI, and second baseman Tricia Debroux was 2-for-2 with two RBI.

Freshman Amanda Harmon (6-8) picked up the win with four-hit, six-strikeout pitching.

_ JOHN C. COTEY

NO EXCUSES: No one has offered more excuses for a disappointing season than Pasco's Jim Ward, but it is still hard to explain how his softball team could have lost its last seven games, including two to a 5-22 Zephyrhills team.

Injuries played a role, although the Pirates were able to get back catcher Andi Abraham and third baseman Susan Dawson prior to losing to the Bulldogs 6-4 at home in Tuesday's Class 4A, District 8 tournament.

Pasco (7-20) still had one of the best centerfielders in the county in Erin Caparelli and pitchers in Domini Walters, but the Pirates never came together.

"It's a shame," said Ward, who thought he had his best team in four seasons. "Seemed we never got serious about the season. Injuries really hurt us. Particularly losing Andi with a broken hand. We started with six seniors and it seemed like they each got hurt. It's hard to replace that leadership. The leadership left when those kids went out. Certainly, the confidence factor was not there."

_ TONY CASTRO

HEAT-SEEKING GATOR: Sometimes, sports fans can go a little too far.

Take the case of Springstead golfer Jeremy Eubanks. In dreadful heat and humidity at Monday's Class 6A, District 7 tournament at the Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club, Eubanks was the only player without a hat. Considering he was beginning to turn red and suffer because of the weather, coach Kathleen Long offered him her hat.

But Long's was a Florida State hat. Eubanks is a Florida Gators fan. So he refused.

Despite playing well, Eubanks had to withdraw from the tournament on hole No. 13 because "he turned purple," Long said. "We think he had heat stroke."

_ JOHN C. COTEY

A compilation of items by John C. Cotey at 869-6261

and Damian Cristodero at 869-6237.

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