By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 10, 2002
LECANTO -- Crystal River wants the No. 1 ranking. Lecanto just wants some respect.
Both teams might have helped their cause at the annual Joe Rigney Jr. Memorial Bat Game on Saturday. Crystal River, ranked No. 2 in Class 3A, improved to 10-0 with a 13-5 win, but it wasn't easy. The Pirates needed a seven-run seventh inning to put Lecanto (3-8) away.
"I was really happy with the way we swung the bats," Pirates coach Brent Hall said. "(Lecanto starter Eric Stewart) kept us off balance for a while, but that's why you play seven innings."
Crystal River led 6-5 after six innings, but pounded out five of their 12 hits off two Lecanto relievers in the seventh. Catcher Clayton Trenary started the inning with a solo home run and third baseman Jimmy Metz closed the scoring with a two-run homer to centerfield.
"Every time the game got close, we responded," Hall said.
And make no mistake, it did get close.
Stewart (2-2) held the hard-hitting Pirates (they scored 20 runs the previous night against Hernando) to one run and two hits through four innings. But Crystal River struck for two runs in the fifth on an RBI-single by shortstop Jonathan Runnels and later went ahead 3-0 on a wild pitch.
In the same inning, Lecanto took advantage of two Crystal River errors to make things interesting. Brian Dawsy's two-run single to right field tied the game at 3. The Pirates then took a 6-3 lead in the sixth, but Lecanto answered with two runs of its own in the bottom half of the inning off Crystal River starter Ryan Starkey (2-0).
"I don't believe in moral victories, but maybe this will light a fire," Lecanto coach Brian Donovan said. "We played as well as we could play. We played a good game. I'm very disappointed not to win, but I'm not upset."
The game is named in honor of ex-Lecanto player Joe Rigney Jr., who died in a 1993 car accident shortly after graduating. Before the game, Lecanto retired the No. 15 jersey worn by Rigney Jr., and presented his father with a game uniform.