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PHCC finds backup in Rams pipeline

One former Ridgewood player's baseball career at PHCC is finished while another ex-Ram is stepping in as a replacement.

Sophomore second baseman Derek Kuryliw, who broke his right leg while trapping a Southeastern College baserunner in a rundown during a 12-2 win Feb. 26, is out for the season. David Hancox has filled in admirably since, Pasco-Hernando Community College coach Steve Winterling said.

"David Hancox is filling in at second and doing an outstanding job for us," Winterling said. "Actually, Dave's probably our best infielder."

Kuryliw batted .159 with 2 home runs and 16 RBIs in 15 games this season. As a freshman, he hit .294 in 24 games. Kuryliw has the highest average (.467) in Ridgewood history and was the 2001 Times All-Pasco County and Sunshine Athletic Conference Player of the Year.

Hancox, a right-handed reliever who leads the Conquistadors with 2 saves, has a 2.78 ERA and is 0-2. He hits .278.

ON THE REBOUND: Despite winning seven of its past eight games, PHCC is 13-11 thanks to a slow start. More important, the Conquistadors are 2-1 in the Suncoast Conference.

Following a 5-3 loss to Manatee in its conference opener, PHCC avenged that defeat with Monday's 11-2 win. On Wednesday, the Conquistadors went above .500 in the league with a 1-0 victory over Polk.

Both wins came in spectacular fashion. PHCC banged out a season-high 17 hits in the win over Manatee, and Lee Cruz (Pasco) led off the ninth inning with a homer in the Polk game.

Chris Langlois (River Ridge), a right-handed sophomore, improved to 3-1 with 5 hits and 9 strikeouts in 7 innings against Manatee. Cruz and Orlando Rosales (Pasco) each had four hits, and Matt Reed belted his team-leading sixth homer.

Cruz's third home run in the Polk game backed Shawn Barrett's two-hit shutout. Barrett, a sophomore left-hander from Indiana, struck out nine and did not walk a batter.

Sophomore left-hander Bobby Sindelar (Springstead) was scheduled to start Thursday's home meeting with Lincoln Land (Ill.).

The Conquistadors travel to Winter Haven today to play Polk at 6 p.m. in their fourth league game. Left-hander Ronnie Lowe, a freshman from Ridgewood, will start.

Langlois gets Saturday's start when PHCC plays host to Polk at 2 p.m.

LIONS SOFTBALL: During the preseason, Saint Leo coach Christi Wade spoke optimistically of winning the first Sunshine State Conference title in the school's 26-year history.

A disheartening 12-11 start has not swayed her lofty goal.

"I thought we'd be much better at this point," said Wade, who with 213 career wins is approaching the all-time mark of 218 set by Ray Carver. "We've got 34 games left, and we need to finish up 46-11."

While winning the remaining games is not likely, Wade does not rule out another 40-victory season. Last year, the Lions won a school-record 42 and were SSC runners-up.

Saint Leo played host to the fourth annual Outback Invitational during the weekend, and that series was not concluded for the first time.

Saint Leo, which never has won the tournament, tied Valdosta State for third place. Those teams, along with Florida Southern and Ashland College (Ohio), reached the semifinals before they and the final were rained out. Florida Southern was declared champion because of run differential.

Saint Leo won its only game in pool play, 2-1 over Tampa. Gina McKeon's two-run double in the sixth inning scored Denyve Duncan and Alena Gerrell. That backed Katie Heintz's three-hitter, which included eight strikeouts and five walks.

Heintz has emerged as the Lions' leading pitcher. Heather Gamlin, a freshman sensation who was all-conference second team, won 32 games and fanned 267, was slowed earlier this season by an ankle injury.

Heintz has shouldered most of the load on the mound and has come up with impressive numbers. The freshman left-hander is 7-4 with a 1.14 ERA. She has 74 strikeouts and has limited opponents to a .115 average.

"Heintz had to step in at the beginning of the season when Heather went down, and she's performed really well," Wade said. "It's been a very pleasant surprise."

Gamlin practiced this week and is ready to pitch again. She is 3-6 with a 1.96 ERA. Meanwhile, senior right-hander Lacey Hardesty, who spent most of last season on the injured list, is 2-1 with a 3.29 ERA in a limited role.

Jennifer Kwaitkowski, a senior catcher/designated hitter, leads Saint Leo with a .326 average and is one of the team's three .300 hitters. Duncan, a sophomore middle infielder, is hitting .309 and Gerrell, a freshman outfielder, .304.

Duncan, the SSC Freshman of the Year, also is the team leader in hits (25), runs scored (19) and stolen bases (18).

Katie Kilfoile and McKeon share the team RBI lead with 12.

The Lions, 0-5 on the road, open conference play with Saturday's doubleheader at Lynn and Sunday's doubleheader at defending SSC champion Barry. Both series start at 1 p.m.

SSC OPENER: Saint Leo's baseball team opens conference play today by playing host to Florida Tech at 7 p.m. The three-game series continues with Saturday's doubleheader at 1 p.m.

The Lions (5-13) won two of their three games this week. On Monday, they defeated Merrimack (Mass.) 18-11 before Tuesday's doubleheader split _ a 10-8 win followed by a 12-4 loss _ with Shippensburg (Pa.).

In the win over Shippensburg, Mike Stepp (Zephyrhills) had three hits, two RBIs and two runs. He also earned his second save.

Jason Lopez had three hits and three RBIs and Rich Hittel (Ridgewood) improved to 2-0.

In the win over Merrimack, Joe DiLeo, Stepp and Lopez each had three RBIs.