Saturday, March 31, 2012

Prep tennis: District tournaments begin next week

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It's the beginning of end of the 2011-12 prep sports season, as the spring playoffs get underway.

First up is boys and girls tennis, which gets underway Monday.

Listed below are the districts involving area teams:


When: Monday and Tuesday

Where: King Middle School

Local: Manatee

Others: North Port, Riverview, St. Petersburg, Seminole


When: Tuesday and Wednesday

Where: Charlotte High School

Locals: Bayshore, Braden River, Lakewood Ranch, Palmetto

Others: Charlotte, Port Charlotte, Sarasota, Venice


When: Monday and Tuesday

Where: Englewood Sports Complex

Local: Southeast

Others: Arcadia DeSoto, Booker, Cape Coral Mariner, Fort Myers Dunbar, Lehigh Acres Lehigh


When: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday

Where: Out-of-Door Academy (Boys will be played Monday at Longwood Run Athletic Club in Sarasota)

Locals: Cardinal Mooney, Out-of-Door Academy, Saint Stephen's

Others: Clearwater Calvary Christian, Clearwater Central Catholic, Largo Indian Rocks Christian, St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut, St. Petersburg Canterbury, St. Petersburg Northside Christian, St. Petersburg Shorecrest Prep.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Prep track and field: Manatee County meet slated for Friday

(photo by Tiffany Tompkins-Condie)

Manatee County's track and field championships take place Friday at Manatee, beginning with the field events at 4:30 p.m. The running finals are set to begin at 6:30 p.m., said Mike Smith, Manatee's boys coach.

The event will serve as a warm-up of sorts for the district meets, which get underway Monday, April 9.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Prep football: Kinnan happy with Hurricanes' schedule

(photo by John Lembo)Two nearby counties host three of the best prep football teams in the nation.
Hillsborough is home to Seffner Armwood and Tampa Plant, while Manatee County is home to Manatee High.
Yet the Hurricanes won't play either school next season.
"We're all in different classes," Manatee coach Joe Kinnan said Monday at McKechnie Field, where the Hurricanes were honored for winning the Class 7A state title. "I think all of us would rather play somebody from out of state."
Armwood opened last season in Las Vegas, where the Hawks beat Bishop Gorman en route to winning the Class 6A state title. They also beat Tampa Plant on Oct. 28.
Plant, which won the Class 8A state title, defeated New Jersey power Bergen Catholic during the second half of the Manatee Memorial Hospital Suncoast Challenge. The Hurricanes played another Jersey team, Don Bosco Prep, prior to the Plant-Bergen game and opened the season against Our Lady of Good Counsel in Olney, Md.
The Hurricanes host Friendship Collegiate Academy during Week 1 of the regular season this year and travel to Sammamish, Wash., to play Skyline High two weeks later.
Armwood, Manatee and Plant were all ranked nationally last season.
"During the summer, Armwood and us, we throw against each other during 7-on-7 twice," Kinnan said.
Manatee hosts St. Petersburg Gibbs in a spring game May 25 but will also take part in a 16-team scrimmage in Pinellas County on Saturday, May 12. The scrimmage will take place at Clearwater Calvary Christian, home to a stadium lined with FieldTurf, and the Hurricanes will meet East Lake at 10:30.

Prep football: Pirates' Hague knows a bit about Manatee's Seattle opponent

(photo by Grant Jefferies)

Matt Hague is a Pittsburgh Pirates' prospect currently hitting .417 in spring training. He is also a native of Bellevue, Wash., and knows a thing or two about Skyline High, which hosts Manatee on Saturday, Sept. 15.

Skyline is located in Sammamish, a suburb of Seattle.

"They usually have a really good football team," said Hague, who played baseball at Kentwood High in Covington, Wash. "We never played them, because they were a level below us...(Skyline's) stadium is nice. I remember they had really nice facilities. They're just known for their good sports teams."

The school opened in 1997 but has already won six state football titles, including last season. The Spartans were classified a Class 3A school by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association before being bumped to 4A in 2004-05.

Their quarterback, Max Browne, is ranked eighth in Rivals' list of the top 100 prospects for the Class of 2013. He threw 4,034 yards and 45 touchdowns last year.

"They've always thrown a lot," Hague said.

Hague's words of wisdom for Manatee?

Stay dry.

"They better be ready for not-Florida weather," he said. "It's not really cold, it just rains a lot, especially there. Baseball games, we got rained out all the time. It gets pretty nice out there in the summer, but for the most part, it's a lot of rain. So they better have their running game going."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Prep football: Plenty of locals on Premier Sports' 7-on-7 team

(photo by Tiffany Tompkins-Condie)

Southeast's Courtney Allen is one of a handful of area players suiting up for Premier Sports during this weekend's IMG Madden 7-on-7 Southeast Regional Qualifier.

Teams are looking to qualify for the 7-on-7 national championship June 29-July at IMG.

Listed below are the local members on Premier Sports' team:

MANATEE - Kelvin McKnight, Justin Austin.

OUT-OF-DOOR ACADEMY - Demardre Patterson, Evan Wilson, Tyler Burgett, Brian O'Connor

SOUTHEAST - Courtney Allen, Isaac Pinckney, James Barnes, Eric Thompson, Bobby Haynes, Kadarius Carley, Troy Thompson, Jimmy Jean, Larry Woodward, Jr., Brian Waiters, Breyon Reed, Roderick Salter, Jr.

The rest of the team is comprised of players from Sarasota.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Prep football: Pirates will honor Hurricanes on Monday

(photo by Tiffany Tompkins-Condie) The Pittsburgh Pirates will honor Manatee's state championship football team Monday night prior to the Pirates' game with the Baltimore Orioles at McKechnie Field.
The ceremony will start about 15 minutes before first pitch, and will include photos and a ceremonial first pitch. Manatee coach Joe Kinnan threw out the first pitch before a Pirates game in 2010, when the Canes were recognized for their run to the Class 5A state final.
Manatee defeated Jacksonville First Coast last December to win the 7A state championship. It was the Canes' fifth state title and first since 1992.
Monday is the Pirates' only night home game of the spring and is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Prep baseball: Yankees reassign locals Murphy, Pope

(photo by Grant Jefferies) The New York Yankees reassigned Bradenton natives J.R. Murphy and Ryan Pope to their minor-league camp last week.
Murphy, a catcher, hit .273 with three RBIs in seven games this spring for the Yankees. An IMG alum drafted by the Yankees in 2009, Murphy made the trip to Bradenton when the Yankees played the Pirates earlier this spring.
This marked Murphy's first big-league camp. He will probably begin the year with Yankees' high Single-A team in Tampa.
Pope, a pitcher, appeared in two games and posted a 6.75 ERA in 2 2/3 innings this spring. He graduated from Bayshore in 2004 and was drafted by the Yankees in third round of '07, making him the first-ever baseball draft pick to come out of the Savannah College of Art and Design.
He pitched a perfect inning last spring against the Pirates at McKechnie Field.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Prep baseball: Plenty of locals earn Sarasota Baseball Classic honors

(photo by John Lembo)

Manatee, IMG Acadamies, Lakewood Ranch and Palmetto had at least one player take away personal honors from the Sarasota Baseball Classic.

IMG's Alfredo Escalera was named the MVP of the Premier Division and teammate Mack Mayer was named the division's best pitcher after both helped IMG win the championship. Escalera hit a walk-off home run and Mayer took a perfect game into the sixth inning of the final against Miami Coral Reef, which IMG won 1-0.

Lakewood Ranch's Zach Larson was named the best hitter of the Elite Division, where the Mustangs went 2-2.

Manatee's Cord Sandberg and Palmetto's John Collins were named to the all-tournament team.

The entire tournament team and list of award winners can be found here.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Prep baseball: New bats result in a new game

(photo by John Lembo)

IMG Acadamies won the Sarasota Baseball Classic's Premier Division on Thursday thanks to a walk-off home run by Alfredo Escalera.

Jason Elias wasn't expecting it at all.

"The game's changed," Elias, the team's head coach, said. "We've spent a lot on time on defense, a lot of time helping our pitchers fill out the zone and baserunning."

The game has changed because the bats have changed. The National Federation of State High School Associations ruled all bats must meet BBCOR peformance standard in order to be legal.

BBCOR stands for Batted Ball Coefficient of Resolution, or how lively the ball jumps off the bat. The new BBCOR standard bats are designed to produce hit speeds identical to the speeds produced by a wood bat.

The NCAA began banning composite bats last year, as well, according to this blog.

The rule change is a big reason why Manatee centerfielder Cord Sandberg is using a wood bat this spring. Wood bats do not have to meet the BBCOR standard.

And it's a reason why some teams, such as Elias' IMG squad, have begun utilizing small ball.

"Guys have to have mindsets of hitting line drives and getting on base," Sandberg said. "We're going to have to produce runs other ways."

The Hurricanes were an offensive juggernaut last spring, when they scored 40 runs in three regional playoff games to reach the Class 5A state final four. Yet Sandberg said the Canes have hit just two home runs so far this spring, and Manatee scored 18 runs during its four-game run through the Sarasota Baseball Classic.

It's not as if a slightly diffused offense hurt the Canes - they made the tournament's Elite Division championship game.

"Last year, we could rely on the two-out bomb," Sandberg said. "This year, you kind have got to work on getting guys on base, move them over and just produce runs a couple at a time."

It's a different game. And with the district playoffs scheduled to get underway in a little more than a month, it'll be interesting to see how everything plays out.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Prep baseball: Winning at the Sarasota Baseball Classic means plenty to IMG

(photo by John Lembo)

IMG Academies won the Premier Division of the Sarasota Baseball Classic this afternoon in thrilling fashion thanks to Alfredo Escalera.

The senior's walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh gave IMG a 1-0 win over Miami Coral Reef in the championship game at Sarasota High.

The players mobbed Escalera at home plate following his blast, and with good reason: IMG is an independent member of the Florida High School Athletic Association, meaning the school cannot compete for district, state or regional titles.

"This is our championship. We have a couple of more tournaments for the year and that's about it," Escalera said. "We can't play for state, so this is our championship."

Escalera had three of IMG's five hits Thursday and came within a triple of hitting for the cycle.

He was selected to the Rawlings/Perfect Game Preseason Florida Region All High School Senior Second Team.

"Alfredo's a guy that had a lot of pressure on his shoulders coming in this season," said IMG coach Jason Elias, adding the 17-year-old will be the country's youngest draft-eligible player. "(Wednesday), we took him out of the lineup...And one of the assistants back home said, 'I think Alfredo's going to have a big day (Thursday).' Big's not the word for it. He really stepped up."

IMG's tournament days are not done. The team leaves Saturday for the Big League Dugout National Invitational in Arizona, and will play in the Central Florida Spring Break Slam in Orlando on March 26 and the Hard 9 National Classic in California on April 9.

"Hopefully, this propels us to continue to have good things happen," Elias said.

Prep baseball: Hurricanes hope to build on SBC performance

(photo by John Lembo)

The Manatee Hurricanes are hoping their last two wins did more than just qualify them for tonight's Eilte Division championship game at the Sarasota Baseball Classic.

"It's really coming up big after the couple of games we had in a row," coach Dwayne Strong said Wednesday following Manatee's 4-3, nine-inning win over Venice. "We had the sixth inning against Riverview, the Braden River game and then the game against Flanagan. So this is huge."

Manatee lost 9-1 to Braden River last Friday and opened the Sarasota Baseball Classic on Monday with a sloppy 8-2 loss to Flanagan. But the Hurricanes defeated Miami Sunset on Correlle Prime's walk-off grand slam on Tuesday before outlasting the Indians on Wednesday to clinch first place in Pool A and reach tonight's 7 p.m. championship game against Naples Barron Collier.

The game will be played at Sarasota High.

The Hurricanes (8-4) want to leave the SBC with a championship, something a Manatee County school hasn't done in 11 years. Most importantly, however, is they hope the momentum spins forward, especially since they resume Class 7A-District 11 play next Friday at Sarasota.

"We just need to find ways right now to win until we get right, and we ain't right yet," Strong said. "That's a beautiful thing, to be where we're at and we ain't right yet. We're just not clicking on all cylinders yet."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Prep baseball: Intrigue at the Sarasota Baseball Classic

Manatee meets Venice in a few minutes in the Elite Bracket of the Sarasota Baseball Classic here at the Buck O'Neil Baseball Complex, and there is something on the line.
Miami Sunset beat Flanagan earlier today, so if the Hurricanes (1-1 in pool play) beat the Indians (2-0), they win Pool A and meet Naples Barron Collier, the champion out of Pool B, for the Elite Brakcet championship on Thursday.
Venice clinches the pool with a victory.
First pitch is in a few minutes.
Scott Kelly pitches for Manatee against Venice's Nick Longhi.

Prep baseball: Breaking down pool play at Sarasota Baseball Classic

(photo by John Lembo)

Today marks the final day of pool play in the Elite Bracket of the Sarasota Baseball Classic, as Manatee meets Venice at 7:30 p.m. at the Buck O'Neil Baseball Complex and Lakewood Ranch faces Sarasota at Sarasota High at 7.

Here is a look at each pool:


Venice 2 0

Flanagan 1 1

Manatee 1 1

Sunset 0 2

Scenario: The Indians can clinch the pool and a berth in Thursday's championship game against the winner from Pool B with a win tonight over the Hurricanes. If Manatee wins and Sunset beats Flanagan, the Canes win the pool. A Manatee win coupled with a Flanagan win creates a three-way tie for first and runs allowed will serve as a tiebreaker. Venice begins play today having allowed one run, while Manatee has given up 10 and Flanagan has yielded seven.

The Manatee-Venice game will not count toward Class 7A-District 11 standings.


Naples Barron Collier 2 0

Sarasota 1 1

Lakewood Ranch 1 1

Montverde Academy 0 2

Scenario: Thanks to wins over Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch, the Cougars of Barron Collier have clinched Pool B, leaving the Sailors and Mustangs to play for second. The most losses Barron Collier can have is one, and the Cougars have already defeated one-loss Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch.

The championship and consolation games will be played Thursday. The winners of each pool will meet for the championship, while the second seeds will play for third, the third seeds will play for fifth and the fourth seeds will play for seventh.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Prep baseball: Elite Pool play standings

(photo by John Lembo)

Here are the Elite Pool play standings after one day of the Sarasota Baseball Classic. Pool play runs through Wednesday, with the consolation and championship games scheduled for Thursday.

Pool A

Flanagan 1 0

Venice 1 0

Manatee 0 1

Miam Sunset 0 1

Pool B

Lakewood Ranch 1 0

Naples Barron Collier 1 0

Sarasota 0 1

Montverde Academy 0 1

Prep baseball: Tuesday's local Sarasota Baseball Classic games

(photo by John Lembo) Listed below are Tuesday's Sarasota Baseball Classic games involving area teams.

Manatee vs. Miami Sunset, 1 p.m. at Sarasota
Lakewood Ranch vs. Naples Barron Collier, 7:30 p.m. at Buck O'Neil Baseball Complex
Miami Palmetto vs. IMG, 4:45 p.m. at Buck O'Neil Baseball Complex
Braden River vs. North Port, 4 p.m. at Riverview
Palmetto vs. Riverview, 7 p.m. at Riverview
Cardinal Mooney vs. Charlotte, 4 p.m. at Sarasota

Prep baseball: Recent struggles baffle Manatee's coach

(photo by John Lembo)Manatee's run to last year's Class 5A state final four was built primarily on its sound fundamentals and defense.
So coach Dwayne Strong isn't quite sure why this year's edition hasn't followed suit. Manatee committed 30 errors in 31 games last year, Strong said, but 17 errors in its last four.
The Canes played sloppy during an 8-2 loss to Flanagan on Monday during the first day of the Sarasota Baseball Classic. They committed five errors and four in Flanagan's four-run seventh inning.
"It's becoming a concern," said Strong, whose team has been outscored 17-3 in its past two games. "When you return so many guys, trying to get them to stay focused and getting them to work on what they need to work on is a difficult task."
Manatee graduated four starters from last year's team, which won 22 games and came within a game of playing for a state championship.
This year's team is 6-4 overall but 4-1 in Class 7A-District 11 and own a one-game lead over Sarasota and Venice.
"Last year, we did a pretty good job," Strong said. "We've made half the errors in four games than we made all of last year."
So do the Canes fix it? Strong isn't sure. He just knows it needs to be fixed if Manatee wants to make another long playoff run.
"I don't know what the answer is. I'm going to get out of here, do some laundry, think about it and regroup for (Tuesday)," he said. "It does surprise me because we've got a good ballclub and we've got good players. For these guys not to be making routine plays is disturbing."

Prep baseball: Sarasota Baseball Classic underway

(photo by John Lembo) That is Manatee's baseball team stretching at Sarasota High's Ronald K. Drew Field in preparation for its first Sarasota Baseball Classic game of the week.
The Hurricanes meet Flanagan at 4 p.m. in pool play of the tournament's Elite Bracket.
Correlle Prime is scheduled to pitch for Manatee.
Braden River opened its portion of play with a 4-1 win over Benjamin in the first round of the Premier Bracket. Ryan Fischer tossed six innings to earn the win. He also singled twice, walked reached on an error, stole two bases and scored a run.
The Pirates (6-4) play either Pembroke Pines Charter or North Port on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.
Cardinal Mooney, Lakewood Ranch, IMG Academy and Palmetto are also competing in the tournament.
Check out and tomorrow's edition of The Bradenton Herald to see how the area's teams fared in the Sarasota Baseball Classic.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Prep baseball: 7A-District 11 will be interesting down the stretch

(photo by Paul Videla) Trevor Beeman and the Manatee Hurricanes may have been on the tail end of a 9-1 score Friday night at Braden River, but they control their own destiny following the first round of district play in potent Class 7A-District 11.
The loss dropped the Canes (6-3 overall) to 4-1 in district play, though they still own a one-game lead over Sarasota (3-2) and Venice (3-2). Braden River and Charlotte are each 2-3, though the Tarpons defeated the Pirates, and Port Charlotte is 1-4.
A six-team district means the top-two seeds receive a bye into the semifinals, which they would host. Manatee earned such a luxury last year, hosting the Class 5A-District 10 semifinal and final and winning both en route to the state final four.
Here are some key district games on the way involving the district's two county teams:
Venice at Manatee, March 30: The rivals meet during this week's Sarasota Baseball Classic in a non-district game. The March 30th affair, however, will have more serious ramifications. Manatee won the first meeting behind ace Correlle Prime, who has pitched well against the Indians throughout his career, and the lanky right could see Venice again.
Sarasota at Braden River, April 1o: Don't sleep on the Pirates, who cruised past the Canes on Friday, beat the Sailors earlier this year and lost by a run to Venice. Veteran coach Mike Verrill, currently in his first season at Braden River, has the Pirates playing well. And a win here over Sarasota could give them a higher seed, and perhaps a first-round home game, come district play.
Braden River at Manatee, April 5: The action shifts to G.T. Bray for what will be Manatee's final district game of the regular season. A lot can happen between now and then, but this game should have some relevance on the district playoffs, which begin April 24.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Prep baseball: Lakewood Ranch 2nd, Manatee 3rd on BHSN Baseball Poll

Lakewood Ranch's baseball team is ranked second on the latest BHSN Top 10 Baseball Poll

Manatee is ranked third.

The Mustangs defeated the Hurricanes 4-3 earlier this season.

Tampa Jesuit, which defeated Lakewood Ranch 4-2 on Wednesday, is ranked first. Led by pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., considered one of the best players in the country, the Jesuit Tigers are ranked second in the nation by MaxPreps.

Lakewood Ranch (6A) and Manatee (7A) are in different classifications but will compete in the Elite Bracket of the Sarasota Baseball Classic, which gets underway Monday.

The teams will also meet again during the regular season 7 p.m. Friday, April 20 at G.T. Bray park.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Prep football: Two more Hurricanes get Division I offers

(photo by Tiffany Tompkins-Condie)

Scholarship offers keep flowing in for Manatee's football players.

Two more Hurricanes have received offers, according to assistant coach Chris Conboy, as offensive lineman Thor Miller has attracted FIU while running back/receiver Anthony Lauro has been offered by Akron and Western Kentucky.

The 6-foot-2, 252-pound Miller earned a spot on the All-Area First Team and helped Manatee win the Class 7A state championship. He underwent knee surgery after suffering an injury during wrestling season, but Miller said at the time he should be ready for the 2012 season.

Lauro made the First Team as well after totaling 631 rushing yards, 607 receiving yards and scoring 14 touchdowns.

Iowa State, Purdue and UCF have also shown a lot of interest in Lauro, Conboy said.

Miller and Lauro are the fifth and sixth returning Hurricane to net at least one Division I offer, joining quarterback Cord Sandberg and defensive linemen Blake Keller, DeMarcus Christmas and Derrick Calloway.

The Hurricanes had four players sign Division I scholarships in February: defensive back Clinton Heaven (North Carolina), running back Leon Allen (Western Kentucky) and linebackers Hershel Caywood (Brown) and Darius White (Iowa State).

Manatee will receive its state championship rings 6:30 p.m. Thursday at G.T. Bray prior to the baseball team's game with Riverview.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Prep baseball: IMG grad J.R. Murphy returning to Bradenton today with Yankees

(photo from

Bradenton native and IMG graduate J.R. Murphy is on the Yankees' travel list for today's game against the Pirates at McKechnie Field.

Murphy is one of four catchers making the trip today from Tampa. Francisco Cervelli will start behind the plate for New York.

Baseball America considers Murphy the Yankees' ninth-best prospect.

Game time is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Prep baseball: Bradenton's Murphy knocks in a run for Yankees

(photo by Bradenton native and IMG grad J.R. Murphy made an impact during the New York Yankees' Grapefruit League home-opener Sunday afternoon in Tampa.
A catcher, Murphy went 1-for-2 with an RBI as the Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 7-4.
Murphy, 20, was the Yankees' second-round pick in 2009 and promoted to the team's high Single-A affiliate in Tampa last summer.
The Yankees head to Bradenton on Tuesday to face the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field, though it us unknown if Murphy will make the trip.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Prep football: Manatee schedules two more out-of-state opponents

(photo by Tiffany Tompkins-Condie)

Manatee has added a pair of out-of-state teams to next year's schedule.

The team announced Thursday that the Hurricanes will host Friendship Collegiate Academy out of the D.C. area on Sept. 1 and will travel to Seattle, Wa., to play Skyline on Sept. 15.

Both games are expected to be nationally televised.

For more on this story, check out and Friday's edition of the Bradenton Herald.

Prep baseball: Bayshore's game Friday will assist school's aspiring poet

In lieu of selling tickets to Friday's home game, Bayshore's baseball team will be accepting donations to help student Anthony Ramirez publish a book of poems.

Ramirez has cerebral palsy, and when he told Bayshore baseball coach and reading teacher Ron Hirst about his desire to write a poetry book, Hirst approached his players and they came up with the idea of using Friday's game against Gulfport Boca Ciega as a fundraiser.

The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Ramirez will read poems from his book and share its title during the game.

The Bruins will host a car wash noon to 3 p.m. Saturday in front of Bayshore High in hopes of raising more funds for Ramirez, who needs between $800 and $900 to publish his book.