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The road to Tampa: River Ridge

Senior third baseman Jill Horovoski leads the 25-2 Royal Knights into the district tourney.

By STEVE LEE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 21, 2002


NEW PORT RICHEY -- As a three-year starter and one of six seniors, River Ridge's Jill Horovoski does not draw attention like teammates Christine Beck, Adrienne Cicirello and Stefanie Simon.

Beck is the county's top pitcher (13-1. 0.89 ERA), Cicirello arguably the best leadoff hitter (.352, 15 stolen bases) and Simon is a rock at shortstop and a clutch cleanup hitter (.382, 31 RBIs).

Still, coach Ernie Beck said Horovoski is a mainstay on a team that is 25-2, has won back-to-back Sunshine Athletic Conference championships and is a defending district champion.

As he has since her sophomore season, Beck will pencil Horovoski's name on the lineup card for every game of this week's Class 4A, District 8 tournament at River Ridge.

And, the coach hopes, for a few more games after that.

"She's improved every year," said Beck, adding that Horovoski has "quicker reactions and (makes) less errors."

Hard work in the form of sometimes fielding 100 ground balls in practice, made Horovoski a steady infielder, Beck said.

Offensively, Horovoski, who has learned to use the whole field, is a .326 hitter with 18 runs scored and 12 RBIs.

"Her favorite shot is still to pull the ball, but she's gotten quite a few hits to the opposite field," Beck said.

Horovoski is also durable. Only she and Christine Beck have played in all of River Ridge's 27 games.

For the Knights to win the district, they also will need continued contributions from others, especially the other seniors: Beck, Cicirello, Meghan Beach, Amy Cassell and Kim Deeb.

Senior leadership makes the Knights district favorites, but it doesn't guarantee anything, Beck said.

"I think there's pressure on everybody. You've got to win to move on. We're used to winning, but it could change in the districts."

Beck is eager to take the field at home for the first time since March 12 against Mitchell. A scheduling quirk left River Ridge on the road for 18 games.

While the Knights (15-0 SAC, 12-0 4A-8) are the district's top seed, Ridgewood, Land O'Lakes, Tarpon Springs and Mitchell each have a shot to move on.

"The four teams, we've gone head-to-head with each other and it's been a hard battle," said Jerry English, coach of second-seeded Land O'Lakes.

"The talent is pretty even. It's consistency and who wants to play ball that night."

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