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Bears break out in 7th

Central scores six runs in final at-bat to defeat rival Hernando 9-7.

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 2, 2003

BROOKSVILLE -- What started as a drip Tuesday at Tom Varn Park swelled to a flood that Central coach Benny Martinez hopes will carry his team toward the district tournament.

Pinch-hitter Meaghann Helman's leadoff single sparked a six-run seventh inning that overcame a five-run deficit for the Bears, who won 9-7 over Hernando and erased the memory of a 15-run loss to the Leopards the first week of the season.

"Now, we're ready to head toward districts," Martinez said. "We're going to play tight. There aren't going to be any more big games unless we just literally don't come to play."

The win was the third of the season and second on the field for Central (3-14), which was awarded a forfeit victory over Miami Dade Christian in the Spring Fling Invitational Friday in Brandon.

Martinez said Central built on its showing in the tournament, where it went 1-3 against some of the top teams in the state, including top-ranked Plant.

"We started with Plant," Martinez said. "Plant dodged a bullet with us. We really played a lot harder than that score (8-0) said, because they pitched their two best pitchers in that game and these kids played them tough."

Central's Samantha Downing had four hits, including a double and a triple, and drove in two runs. She is 11-for-14 in her past four games.

"The ball looks like a watermelon," Downing said.

Liz Wallace, Lindsey Herr and Danielle Brown also drove in runs for the Bears. Pitcher Stephanie Owen was relieved by Katy Miller after allowing five runs in two innings but returned to shut out Hernando over the final 21/3.

Central stranded runners at third in the first and second innings before Hernando jumped on the Bears for five runs in the second. Whitney Massingale's three-run triple was the biggest blow.

Central cut its deficit to 6-3 with a three-run fifth, but the Bears waited until the seventh to take control.

Helman pinch hit for Brittany Hasty, who injured her wrist when she was hit by a pitch in the Spring Fling.

Helman singled to left to start the inning, and Downing followed with a triple to left-center.

Before the inning was over, Central sent 11 batters to the plate and came away with six runs on three hits and three Hernando errors.

After Owen threw to Wallace to retire Chantel Canaday for the final out, Wallace tossed the ball in the air and joined her teammates for an impromptu celebration along the third-base line.

"It feels wonderful," Wallace said.

"It makes everybody feel good and brings their spirits up."

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