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Pitching staff carries Cougars

Durant's Ross Jackson was so good against Haines City on Tuesday he not only threw a no-hitter, but he came within two baserunners _ one was hit by a pitch and another walked _ of throwing a perfect game.

Durant won 4-0 and Jackson improved to 4-0, striking out 10, increasing his season total to 41 strikeouts in 25 innings.

But it doesn't end with Jackson.

The Cougars have four pitchers with outstanding numbers: John Gawron (3-0, 11 innings, 0.60 ERA); Steve Lee (3-1, 28 innings, 0.98 ERA); Jackson (4-0, 25 innings, 1.09 ERA); and Mike Maslar (1-0, 18 innings, 1.15 ERA).

That adds up to the Cougars owning the best record (11-1) among public schools as of Thursday.

And one more thing: Gawron, who leads Durant with a .405 average in 42 at-bats, played with 10 stitches in his right thumb the past five games. He collected 12 hits during that time.

NERVES? BRING 'EM ON: For most first-year varsity players, nerves can get in the way of a solid hit.

For Plant sophomore Andrew Kuykendall, the jitters are apparently a bonus.

The third baseman, who hit .450 last season as a club team player (there is no official junior varsity in Hillsborough County), is the varsity's leading hitter.

His average stands at .513 with 20 hits and ranks among the county leaders.

Oddly, Kuykendall attributed the improvement to new and heavy pressures at the plate.

"The difference is focus," Kuykendall said. "The first home game I played (this season), there were hundreds of people watching. On JV, there are three people watching.

"Sometimes, you get in too much of a routine. But when all these people were watching me, I was nervous. All I could do was just focus on the ball and hit it."

SEEING JESUIT IN YOUR SLEEP: It's Jesuit week at Jesuit, which means Jesuit plays Jesuit and then plays Jesuit again, at, of course, Jesuit.

Okay, this means that for the next four days, Tampa Jesuit is hosting two other Jesuit schools, one from Houston Strake and another from Dallas. That makes three of four Jesuit schools from the southern province.

The only missing southern school is New Orleans Jesuit, which couldn't attend because of conflicts with Mardi Gras, Tampa Jesuit coach John Crumbley said.

"They all have pretty good teams, and we're looking forward to some good games," Crumbley said. "We really wanted to get all the Jesuit teams here, but it just didn't work out."

Tampa Jesuit started the round-robin format Thursday with a game against Strake Jesuit. Tampa Jesuit will play Dallas Jesuit today and Monday.

On Saturday, Strake will play Tampa Catholic at 10, and TC will follow with another game against Dallas at 1 p.m.

_ SCOTT PURKS, EMILY NIPPS

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