Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kenny Lives Up to Hype vs. Bulldogs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kenny Lives Up to Hype vs. Bulldogs

Article excerpt

TAMPA -- Anyone out there still doubt that Bishop Kenny's baseball team is as good as the No. 2 national prep ranking given it by Baseball America? If so, then the Crusaders' performance against Zephyrhills in yesterday's Class 4A semifinals should remove all skepticism.

The Bulldogs came to the final four with impressive credentials, having hit a state-record 63 home runs and holding a No. 8 Baseball America ranking. Zephyrhills, home of the bottled water company, left drowning in embarrassment.

Kenny made a shambles out of the most anticipated matchup in the state tournament, burying the Bulldogs 9-0 at Legends Field in a game that didn't look much different from the 17 times this season that BK won by the mercy rule.

"It was probably about as good as we can play," said Kenny coach Bob West.

This was irrefutable evidence that West's club, 34-1, is about the closest thing to a perfect team as there's ever been in the history of Jacksonville high school baseball. Even if some of the Zephryhills players were a bit reluctant afterwards to give Kenny the credit it deserved.

"They're not a big team physically," said Bulldogs' third baseman Mike Stepp. "It's hard to tell how they would have done if the wind hadn't been blowing in."

A statement like that might have some merit if Zephyrhills actually kept the score close and made decent contact off Kenny right-hander Pat Rumble (11-0). But the Bulldogs struck out 10 times, managed only one wimpy-looking base hit by Graham Taylor and were rendered powerless by Rumble's heavy dose of curveballs.

"You could see when he threw the curveball for strikes, their knees practically buckled," said Kenny catcher Tony Richie. "When he throws well, there's no way we should lose."

Danny Wardell, Brett Cimorelli and Stepp, who combined for 44 home runs this season, went 0 for 7 with five strikeouts. Stepp's whining about the wind is a pretty big reach when you consider Zephyrhills hit only three balls out of the infield.

The direction of the breeze didn't seem to bother Kenny, which collected 13 hits and took advantage of six wild pitches by Cimorelli, including four during a five-run fourth inning. …

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