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Hittel hits, pitches Rams to win

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 14, 2002

NEW PORT RICHEY -- Ridgewood starter Richie Hittel didn't need any help against Class 4A, District 8 rival Hudson on Saturday night.

First, Hittel spotted himself a one-run cushion thanks to his first-pitch home run in the first inning. Then Hittel took the mound and made sure his lead held up, striking out nine batters and allowing three hits in Ridgewood's 1-0 win.

"It was the Richie Hittel show wasn't it," Ridgewood coach Larry Beets said. "I was sure that he was going to hit the ball, get a home run and get the game over with."

Hudson starter Bryan Strawser nearly matched Hittel (6-1) pitch for pitch. Strawser (6-2) retired 14 batters in a row after Hittel's home run. Strawser allowed two hits and two baserunners in six innings.

Hudson (16-8, 8-4) did miss a few opportunities to get to Hittel. One was in the second inning when David Leduc led off with a double to right. However, Leduc didn't touch first and was called out on a Ridgewood appeal.

The Cobras also stranded three baserunners in the final two innings. Hittel allowed two hits and a walk in the final two innings, but struck out three to escape.

"Hittel threw a heck of a game. They looked like two of the best pitchers in the county," Hudson coach Jack Ledbetter said.

Beets added: "This is the way it's supposed to be (instead of) these 11-0 (games), 12 or 14 runs where everyone thinks they're all-world hitters. But tonight you make smart pitches and all those .450 averages don't mean anything now."

Ridgewood (20-5, 11-1) managed just one other hit besides Hittel's home run. Josh Le'Roy's infield single in the sixth was the Rams' only other baserunner.

Hudson's Leduc added a leadoff single in the seventh but was stranded at first after a foul popout and two strikeouts.

Last week, Hudson hoped this game would be for the district's top seed. Ridgewood did suffer its first district loss Thursday against Tarpon Springs, but Hudson dropped district games to Land O'Lakes and Mitchell last week, sealing the top seed for Ridgewood.

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