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Springstead, Central may meet fourth time

By FRANK PASTOR
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 28, 2002

Springstead's 1-0 victory over Central in Friday's Class 4A, District 7 final marked the third time the teams played this season.

It might not be the last.

With two more wins, the Eagles and Bears would meet in their region championship.

Springstead (18-6) owns a 2-1 edge this season, winning 1-0 on Friday and 4-0 on March 22. Central (11-11) won 4-0 on March 14.

"Our girls do get fired up before they play Central and Hernando, I think probably because we've been on the other end (of the score) in the past three or four years," Springstead coach Carmine Rufa said.

"The two seniors we have, Vicki (Albert) and Mindi (Robbins), they've been playing four years now, and they are so happy that now they're on this end of it," Rufa said.

Springstead pitcher Emily Eicholtz said she prefers to face a team like Central and its pitcher, Jenny Clark. Both threw three-hitters Friday.

"When it's a good pitcher and it's a good team, it makes the game a lot more interesting," Eicholtz said. "It's not, "Oh, here we go, keep hitting the ball, keep scoring.' It makes it a lot more fun. It's not dull and boring."

WHAT'S NEXT? Springstead plays host to Land O'Lakes (15-9) in Tuesday's region quarterfinal, and Central travels to River Ridge (27-2).

The Eagles beat the Gators 6-0 on April 12. A second game between the teams was rained out.

"Coach (Jerry) English has been there forever," Rufa said. "He's probably the perfect example of keeping his players consistent. Defensively they're going to be solid, and they're going to wait for those key moments to get a couple base hits to score that one or two runs. That's how they win a lot of their big games."

If that sounds familiar, it is because Springstead used a similar formula to beat Lecanto 2-1 and Central 1-0 in the district tournament.

"They're kind of like us," Rufa said. "They play solid defense, they're going to get decent pitching and they just pick their spots."

The Bears have not played River Ridge, but coach Benny Martinez learned everything he needed to know by looking at the Knights' pitching stats.

Christine Beck (13-1) and Kiki Von Holt (11-1) were a combined 24-2 entering Friday's region final against Land O'Lakes.

"Look at their record," Martinez said. "Their second-team pitcher's only lost one ballgame. Their first-team pitcher has only lost one."

GETTING CREAMED: After Eicholtz struck out Lindsey Herr for the last out Friday, Alberts tossed her glove in the air and Springstead's players embraced in front of the plate.

The players shook hands with Central, then rushed to the dugout for a bucket of ice water to dump on Rufa.

But that was just the beginning of the celebration. Players later brought out cans of shaving cream and covered themselves and their coaches.

"You look real good," a parent told Rufa as the coach posed for a picture, covered from head to toe.

Rufa held up a shaving cream can. "The trophy," he said, laughing. "For me, anyway."

ON THE MEND: Springstead's Caitlin DeCristofaro is expected to be cleared to catch on Monday. She sat out the final week of the regular season and was relegated to designated hitter in the district tourney after breaking the thumb on her throwing hand two weeks ago against Hernando.

"It's hard, because I'm so used to being back there for that part of the game," DeCristofaro said. "It's hard, but I still try to be a leader from (the dugout), try to yell as much as I can."

Ashley Liberatore caught in place of DeCristofaro.

"We were waiting for a doctors' permission, and it just never came in," Rufa said. "Monday, she'll definitely be ready, so we weathered the storm."

PATIENCE AT PLATE: Springstead drew only one walk but worked Clark deep into the count as much as possible. Rufa said the Eagles' patience paid off when DeCristofaro delivered the winning single in the sixth.

"We wanted (Clark) to throw a lot of pitches," Rufa said. "She's a big part of their team, and we wanted to take advantage of that one or two pitches when she was a little tired and, hopefully, she relaxes a little bit and we can jump all over it and get that key hit -- and we did."

CLASS 4A, REGION 2 QUARTERFINALS

LAND O'LAKES VS. SPRINGSTEAD

WHEN: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Springstead.

RECORDS: Land O'Lakes 15-9, Springstead 18-6.

ADMISSION: $5.

NOTES: Springstead added to a season of firsts by beating Central 1-0 on Friday for its first district title. The Eagles set a school record for victories (18) and earned their first regional tournament berth. Emily Eicholtz's 18 victories are the most by a Springstead pitcher. The Eagles defeated Land O'Lakes 6-0 on April 12. The Gators lost 11-0 to River Ridge in the District 8 final.

CENTRAL VS. RIVER RIDGE

WHEN: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: River Ridge.

RECORDS: Central 11-11, River Ridge 27-2.

ADMISSION: $5.

NOTES: After a 9-3 start, Central lost seven consecutive games before rebounding to beat Hernando 5-0 in its final regular-season game and Leesburg 3-0 in a district semifinal. With Friday's 1-0 loss to Springstead, the Bears came within a run of their second consecutive district championship. River Ridge went unbeaten in district (12-0) and conference (15-0) play. The Knights' lone losses came in midseason tournament finals.

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