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Warhawks win state crown despite major injury and forfeits

By Chris Wright

SEMINOLE, Fla.–In a season in which no team had the answer to stopping Seminole High, the top-ranked and asterisk-marred Warhawks (31-0*) still have one question:

What if?

What if preseason All-America righthander Ryan Dixon hadn’t had a slight tear in his right labrum, a season-ending injury that saved opponents from facing his 94 mph fastball?

What if preseason All-America shortstop Bryan Bass hadn’t been ruled ineligible–and the team forced to forfeit 10 games–in a quibble over his residence at a previous school?

What if they both were in the lineup, sandwiching preseason All-America first baseman Casey Kotchman?

What if this All-America trio had played the entire season together? Could Seminole have become the first prep team to produce three first-round picks in the same draft?

"I don’t know that a group like this has ever happened," first-year Seminole coach Scott Miller said. "Obviously when Bass showed up, that set the bar a little higher. Winning the state championship was an obvious goal, but I told the kids on the first day to expect that there will be bumps in the road. I didn’t exactly expect this."

Bass, the nation’s top-rated shortstop, was ruled ineligible because he lived with a host family while attending Fort Lauderdale Westminster in the fall. The Florida High School Activities Association forced Seminole to forfeit the 10 games Bass played in.

Seminole won Florida’s 5A title without Bass or Dixon, whose injury was particularly painful. Dixon was Seminole’s ace (3-0, 0.84 in eight innings) and top run-producer (.521-5-29 in 48 at-bats).

"Bryan and Ryan both know this is just one phase of their life," Miller said. "They’ve got a lot of ball left to play. High school baseball is just one step on the ladder for them."

True, Dixon said, but this wasn’t the way he envisioned his senior season.

"It has been tough," said Dixon, who entered the season the eighth-rated prep prospect. "Senior season, you want it to be smooth. We were looking forward to seeing what was going to happen. It was great seeing our names up there, but mainly we just wanted to win.

"When Bryan went down, I felt for him because you want him to be able to play. And then I got the news about the labrum. It hit me, but it’s just something you have to go through. Hopefully I will be back in the middle of the summer, throwing hard."

Bass and Dixon still attended every game, and Dixon even threw out the first pitch–albeit lefthanded–before a playoff victory. Still, he couldn’t help but wonder what could’ve been.

"I think about it," Dixon said, "but it’s still real exciting watching my friends play. It’s just like watching a baseball game, except I know everybody in the lineup. I just wish I could be out there."

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