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LAND O'LAKES PLAYS NUMBERS GAME FOR STATE

Land O'Lakes senior baseball coach Scott Hilgenberg talks like he is playing chess and his game pieces are his pitchers.

With Little League pitch-count rules and his team playing three games in two days at the state all-star tournament in Winter Garden, Hilgenberg is crunching numbers.

"We told the kids today in practice, if you go 0-2 on a kid, you can waste one pitch, but you can't waste two and three pitches trying to get him to chase," Hilgenberg said. "If you have six hitters and you go nine or 10 pitches into the count, you are already up to 60 pitches."

As the rules stand, if a pitcher throws more than 45 pitches in a single game, he must sit two days. But if a pitcher stays at 20 or under he can go ahead and pitch the next day.

So with the rules understood, Hilgenberg planned his attack. His first starter, Austin Aubuchon, will leave his team Saturday to play in an AAU tournament and Hilgenberg said he will utilize him as much as he can Friday against East Boynton Beach.

"We are going to get him to throw as many as he can on Friday night," Hilgenberg said. "We are hoping for a complete game."

As for the double-header on Saturday (Golden Gate National and Section 8 opponent TBD), Hilgenberg said he will mimic the pros and use a starter, middle reliever and closer to keep his pitch count down. He also said he will rely on his defense.

"We had not one physical error last weekend; we had a few mental errors but no physical ones," Hilgenberg said. "Our defense can play defense, so if we get ahead 0-2 we will waste one pitch, but we're not wasting a second pitch or a third pitch; let's go right after them. If they hit the ball, they hit the ball and we get the out."

JUNIOR BASEBALL: After a successful but fluctuating sectional tournament, Land O'Lakes is ready to move on to state play at Port St. Lucie.

"The kids are excited; they just want to go, mostly because they want to play baseball but also because they are excited to be traveling away on a little mini-vacation," coach Harry Olsen said. "We have not been out of the area yet."

Olsen said the sectional tournament was a bit scary the first day. His team was looking at a two-run deficit in the top of the sixth, but a two-out rally in the bottom pushed them above Pinecrest. They won 6-3.

"We were down 2-0 going into the top of the sixth," Olsen said. "But none of the kids lost their cool."

And if the late comeback wasn't agonizing enough, Plant City beat Pinecrest earlier in the tournament 21-3. Land O'Lakes however, opened the game with two two-run home runs in the first inning. They went on to a mercy-rule 10-0 win over Plant City in five innings.

"I like to say that they snapped out of a coma in Game 1 to win a championship," Olsen said.

As for this weekend's state tournament, the team faces the same problems as the senior baseball team: pitch counts.

"We have to utilize more of our pitching staff, which we do have enough of," Olsen said. "Not a lot of them have had much opportunity to pitch."

With four out of their six all-star games going only five innings, not a lot of Olsen's staff has been on the mound. But Olsen is confident they can go as deep as necessary. As for the rest of the aspects of the game, Olsen is not going to be messing with a good thing.

"We are not going to change too much," Olsen said. "Same batting order, same positions; we are going to need a couple of catchers for the doubleheader on Saturday."

Friday night, Land O'Lakes plays Viera\Suntree. Saturday is a double-header against Coral Springs and South Fort Myers.

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