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East Lake crushes field in winning area tourney

After going 15-4-1 during the regular season and earning the No. 1 seed from the north division, East Lake was considered a favorite in the eight-team Southwest Area American Legion B tournament at Lakewood Ranch.

However, even coach Randy Fierbaugh said he was a little surprised by his team's dominance.

Outscoring its four opponents 38-6, including 14-2 over Dunedin Post 275 in the title game, East Lake cruised to the championship and advanced to the state tournament.

"We were surprised," said Fierbaugh, an assistant varsity coach at East Lake High.

"We had a very good tournament; good pitching, good defense and a lot of hitting. We basically played four games essentially error-free."

Saturday's games were rained out, and East Lake opened the tournament Sunday with a 9-3 win over Port Charlotte Post 110 and an 11-0 win over Seminole Baseball Club (Bradenton Southeast).

Right-hander Mike Billek pitched six innings against Port Charlotte for the win, and right-hander Landon Ware went the distance in the five-inning win over Seminole.

Sunday against Manatee Post 24, left-hander Matt Cresta went the distance (seven innings) in a 4-1 win, lifting East Lake into Tuesday's title game.

Post 275 and Gulfport Post 125 were the other two north division teams in the tournament.

Post 125 won its opening game Sunday against the Mustangs Baseball Club (Lakewood Ranch) 5-3 but lost Sunday to Post 24 12-4 and was eliminated Monday by Port Charlotte 4-3.

Post 275 lost its opening game Sunday to Post 24 12-8 in extra innings but bounced back to win four in a row _ another Sunday, two Monday and one Tuesday morning by a combined 35-11 _ to earn the title-game berth against East Lake.

Playing without standouts Brian Dopirak and Ryan Harvey (vacation) and Jeremy Bellotti (at a showcase), and needing to beat East Lake twice, Post 275 was overmatched.

East Lake right-hander Tyler Huegel earned the win in the title game.

Shortstop Jeff Germano, who made several sparkling defensive plays, led East Lake with a .500 batting average for the tournament.

First baseman Mike Guidi batted .450, catcher Nate Huegel .420, second baseman Chris Coghlin .400 and third baseman Nick Newsted .380.

For Dunedin, Gene Novak caught all six games over three days and batted .471 (8-for-17). And Cody O'Connell (7-for-14) and Matt Gregory (6-for-12) batted .500.

"We had nothing left for East Lake," Post 275 coach Tom Hilbert said. "The schedule wore us out. Losing that first game really hurt."

"Granted, Dunedin had to climb out of the loser's bracket, but we came after them," Fierbaugh said. "These players (from East Lake and Dunedin) have been rivals ever since they started playing ball, so it was a little extra sweet."

Fierbaugh's team will be short-handed at the eight-team state tournament.

East Lake plays its opening game at 12:30 p.m. Friday in DeLand and likely will be without three key players, Billek, Germano and Nate Huegel, who Fierbaugh said were expected to attend the Team One East Coast Showcase this weekend at Clemson University.

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