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Date: TUE 03/25/1997
Section: Sports
Page: 6
Edition: 3 STAR

Sterling's pitching strength gets a challenge


Baytown Sterling began the season with what figured to be one of the deepest pitching staffs around. This week the Rangers will get a chance to prove it.

Mostly because of weather, Sterling is in the midst of playing six games in seven days, which can deplete any rotation.

After winning Friday and Saturday, the Rangers played at Port Arthur Thomas Jefferson on Monday, will be at North Shore tonight and host Deer Park Wednesday before ending the week at La Porte on Thursday.

Sterling coach Bruce Paulus thinks his pitching staff is deep enough to get quality starts on four consecutive nights. Ray Kelley will get the start tonight, followed by Brandon Maricle on Wednesday and Dustin Lansford on Thursday.

"We're going into four games (prior to Monday) and I have four starters and three or four kids that are good relievers," he said. "Pitching doesn't bother me right now. The thing that bothers me was coming out of the gym and seeing if we could play after 13 days."

The Rangers, who earlier had a 15-day layoff because of the weather, ended the 13-day hiatus with an 8-2 win over Beaumont Central on Friday.

Sterling's game Monday, as well as Wednesday's game, are makeup. Today's and Thursday's games were regularly scheduled games. All of this week's Friday games were bumped up one day so as not to conflict with Good Friday.

Hot Spring - Spring has undergone a rebirth since the beginning of district play two weeks ago, and the strength of the Lions' non-district schedule has a lot to do with it.

The Lions entered District 21-5A competition with a 5-8 record after playing a fierce schedule that included games with Cypress Falls, Round Rock, Round Rock Westwood, Austin Westlake, Bellaire and Taylor.

Kenny Humphreys' club improved to 9-8 (4-0 in district) after a 12-2 victory over Aldine on Friday and a 13-7 win over MacArthur on Saturday.

"I've been keeping up with everybody that we have been playing and it seems they all are on the top of their district," Humphreys said. "We certainly didn't anticipate being 9-8 or didn't want to be, but we know the schedule we have is paying off."

Spring plays at Kingwood (12-3, 4-0) tonight in the biggest game of the season in 21-5A. Hard-throwing senior Mark Mangum (5-0, 1.09 ERA) will pitch for the Mustangs against hard-throwing sophomore Josh Beckett (2-2, 1.21) for the Lions.

"Last year we made the playoffs with a 9-5 record in district because the district is pretty competitive," Humphreys said. "We've literally figured out the formula now. We think if you can win 10 ballgames in district, it doesn't matter who you beat or lose to, you're going to get in (the playoffs) out of our district.

"Right now every win we get in district we're painting a `W' in the dugout, and we have four sitting up there right now. That's how simple it is."

Around the horn - Reagan coach Anthony Messa, who was dismissed earlier this season, returned to work Wednesday after protests from players and the booster club. Messa was out three weeks. ... After a 2-0 start in District 21-5A, Aldine was run-ruled twice last week to even its league mark at 2-2. ...

Fort Bend Austin beat Hastings, Dulles and Kempner on consecutive nights last week as Chris Sheffield, John Warmke and Adam Fields tossed complete games. Combined, the trio walked just two batters. ... Clear Lake's Kevin Perry picked up wins on consecutive nights with a 7-0 victory over Ball on Friday and 4-3 win over Alvin on Saturday. ... Memorial was forced to forfeit wins over Sharpstown and Stratford and ties with Scarborough and Spring Woods in the Spring Branch Tournament for using an ineligible player. ...

Nederland (15-3, 4-1 in 20-4A) faces a tough week with West Orange-Stark (14-5, 4-1) tonight and Little Cypress-Mauriceville (13-3, 5-0) on Thursday. ... After beating Hull-Daisetta 19-0 on Friday, Northwest Academy dropped a 24-0 decision to Barbers Hill on Saturday. ... St. Thomas won five of six games at last week's Cocoa Expo Tournament in Florida. After losing the first game 3-2, the Eagles posted four shutouts in five games and allowed just one run. ... Liberty's John Goodwin, Josh Cross and Jake Sullivan smacked back-to-back home runs in an 8-7 loss to Beaumont Kelly on Friday.

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