No woes on mound for Pirates
By KRISTEN LEIGH PORTER
CRYSTAL RIVER -- Area batters beware.
With two of its top three pitchers returning, it will not be any easier to get a hit off Crystal River.
Ace Jimmy Metz, who was 12-2 in leading the county in victories and strikeouts, graduated, as did part-time pitchers Will Bleakley, Ryan Starkey and Clayton Trenary.
But senior right-handers Zac Cole (6-feet-4) and William Bunch (6-3) remain as imposing figures on the mound this spring.
Bunch had a 1.16 ERA last season and was 5-1 to earn Times All-Citrus/Hernando first team honors. Cole was 6-0 and received an honorable mention. The pair knows what is expected of them this season.
"It's not like last year; this year we're going out there and we've got a job to do," Bunch said. "They're going to depend on us (more than) last year because we were more relievers, and this year we've got to execute."
Cole is equally confident.
"Me and Will pitched in the fall a lot, and we've grown up together," Cole said. "We're great friends and I feel like we can get the job done."
Crystal River manager Brent Hall said the pair is among several Pirate seniors who will continue their careers after high school.
Both hope to make the big leagues like former Crystal River pitcher Mike Hampton.
"Many colleges have already talked with them and Zac is being looked at heavily by pro scouts," Hall said.
Bunch said Central Florida Community College has offered him a spot, and Bethune-Cookman and Tallahassee Community College are interested, but will wait to see what happens this season.
Bunch relies on his fastball, which has been clocked at 87-88 mph. When he is ahead in the count or the fastball fails him, he throws the curveball.
"I've got a nasty curveball," Bunch said.
Cole also relies on his fastball, and lists his strength as experience.
"I've been working on staying on top," Cole said. "Just being consistent with my strike zone and not letting people get on base cheaply and making them earn their way on base, not giving up any walks."
Other members of the pitching staff include Ryan Pearson, Drew Austin, Richard Covey, Norman Longfellow, Josh Stanford, R.J. Cummins and Casey Wells.
But the best pitching in the world means little if a team cannot put runs on the board. Cole is confident the Pirates offense will be productive.
"I feel our lineup's going to be really dangerous in the middle and I think its going to be really tough to get us out once we get going," said Cole, who is a designated hitter and first baseman when not on the mound.
"We feel like we have maybe even a stronger lineup than we did last year." The county hitter Cole most wants to face is Citrus' Darrell Brooks. Bunch, who threw a no-hitter against Lecanto last season, said he does not think about who is at the plate.
"I just go out there and throw and know I can do it," Bunch said. "Most of the time it is the little dudes that get the hits."
Maybe not this season.
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