While Seminole has garnered the headlines this season _ and rightfully so, as the Warhawks have been immaculate on the field and ensnared in star shortstop Bryan Bass' high-profile residency flap _ the other school in town is playing pretty good baseball, too.
Osceola, after a gut-wrenching, extra-inning defeat Thursday at Shorecrest, is 7-4 overall, 5-1 in extremely tough Class 3A, District 9, and 1-0 in the North division of the Pinellas County Athletic Conference.
The Warriors are led by the pitching and hitting of Jimmy Kubek and Matt Dockus. Kubek, a junior, is batting .400 with two home runs and he's 2-1 with one save and a 2.45 ERA. Dockus, a senior, is batting .333 and has been a mound workhorse, compiling a 3-2 record and 2.15 ERA in 29 innings.
Osceola has another district showdown today at 1 p.m. at surging Tampa Catholic.
HOME RUN HEROES: Shorecrest's Mike Giroud and Zach Wendkos have blasted big home runs recently for the 9-2 Chargers, who are ranked No. 10 in Class 2A.
In the 3-1, extra-inning win over Osceola, Giroud's two-run shot in the ninth was the difference. The senior is batting .448 with three homers.
In Wednesday's 5-3 win over Tampa Prep, Wendkos's two-run homer provided the winning margin. The junior catcher is batting .419 with a team-best 15 RBI.
NO-HITTERS GALORE: The county is immersed in an epidemic of no-hitters this season and Northside Christian produced its second of 2001 this week.
David Scott, a sophomore transfer, allowed only two walks in seven innings Thursday against Keswick Christian, and every out mattered: The Mustangs scored in the bottom of the seventh to win 1-0.
Northside (9-1) got a leg up in 2A-12 with its 7-2 win over Shorecrest last Saturday. The Mustangs, ranked No. 7 in 2A, beat No. 10 Shorecrest behind superb performances from Lastings Milledge and Andy Park, who each went 3-for-3 with a triple and combined to score all seven runs.
ARMS TO SPARE: Perhaps no team in the state has as much pitching depth as Dunedin, which is ranked No. 1 in 4A and No. 5 in the nation by Baseball America. The Falcons have needed it, with No. 1 starter Kyle Schmidt (broken arm) out indefinitely and Nos. 2 and 3 Bryan Banks and Matt Cheek each missing two weeks after all three sustained injuries in a Feb. 22 car accident.
(Dunedin coach Tom Hilbert said the Falcons have been thankful for the outpouring of support and concern from players, parents and coaches throughout the area and state following the accident.)
Dunedin's No. 4 and 5 pitchers have answered the call. Senior John Irving, 6-1 last season, is 2-0 with a 1.53 ERA, including a shutout win over 6A, state-ranked West Palm Beach Wellington. Junior Jeremy Bellotti is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA.
Banks improved to 3-0 Thursday as unbeaten Dunedin allowed just two hits and eked out a 1-0 win over Hudson and its ace, Rob Petrucci.
WHAT'S NEXT? Bass, rated the nation's No. 1 shortstop prospect by Baseball America, was ruled ineligible this week by the FHSAA for living with a host family at Fort Lauderdale Westminster in the fall and living with someone different, his mother, at Seminole this spring. The Warhawks subsequently forfeited their first 10 games, all wins. Seminole plans to appeal the FHSAA April 5.
Transferring to another Florida school does not appear to be an option for Bass, an Alabama native. FHSAA associate commissioner Dan Boyd said unless Bass' appeal is successful, the senior has played his last high school game in Florida.
"He's not eligible at any (FHSAA) member school," Boyd said.
BREAKOUT: Dixie Hollins improved to 6-4 and busted out of a hitting slump in a big way Wednesday and Thursday, scoring a combined 34 runs in wins over Largo and Pinellas Park.
_ PETE YOUNG