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Two of a kind

Bullion sisters are leaders for Crystal River.

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 21, 2002

CRYSTAL RIVER -- J.J. Bullion has accepted the truth.

As much as the Crystal River outfielder would like to believe she is the most talented player in her family, she knows that is not the case. That honor, as painful as it can be to admit, belongs to her younger sister, Ashley.

"I've kind of given up on competing with her," J.J. said. "She outshines me every single time we play. But it's okay because she's a natural at this stuff. I have to work a little harder. She's muscular and I'm a skinny little thing. It was kind of tough at the begining, but I've gotten over it."

Make no mistake, J.J. is hardly a slouch. The senior is the Pirates' starting right fielder and among their top defensive players. She has one error this season and carries a respectable .263 batting average while hitting third in the order.

"She's enthusiastic and has a desire to win," Crystal River coach Lanna Hough said. "She's very emotional. She has the heart to help keep us in games."

Ashley is among the area's top young players. A ninth-grader, she starts at first base, is batting .377 and has 3 triples, 5 doubles and 6 RBIs. Ashley, like J.J., is considered an above-average defensive talent.

"She's good on offense and defense," Hough said.

The sisters began playing when J.J. was 9 and Ashley was 7. They practiced together in youth leagues and were coached by their father, Jim.

"We've always played tother," J.J. said.

At Crystal River, the 5-foot-7 J.J. made the varsity as a sophomore, switching off between pitching and playing in the outfield.

A torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee sidelined her in 2001, but she returned this spring to reclaim her starting spot. J.J. also earned three letters in volleyball.

"She's really good," Ashley said. "She's one of our better defenders. If we didn't have her, we wouldn't get people out at first (from right field). And she's good at pumping up the team and getting us out of bad situations."

Because Crystal River graduated Jessica Wilroy, last year's starting first baseman, the 5-8 Ashley immediately was able to earn the starting nod.

"If it were anybody else but Ashley, I'd be surprised," J.J. said. "But I pretty much expected it.

"Nobody else could have been ale to fill (Wilroy's) shoes. She's smart and knows what she's doing out there. She doesn't need a whole lot of guidance."

J.J., who has a 3.93 GPA, will attend the University of South Florida as a Bright Futures Scholar this fall. She plans to try out for the softball and volleyball teams. Ashley, though only 15, might end up being an NCAA Division I recruit down the road.

"I'm very proud of her," J.J. said. "She's worked hard for it. She's earned everything she's gotten."

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