Citrus Park one win shy of state title
By ANTHONY GAGLIANO
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 24, 2003
The princesses need one more victory to be queens of the diamond.
Citrus Park needs only to defeat the winner of Pinellas Park National-DeBary today to become the senior (15- and 16-year-olds) softball state champions. Citrus Park, 4-0 in the tournament, already has beaten both. Either team must defeat Citrus Park in back-to-back games to prevent it from advancing to the regional tournament in Vienna, Va.
Nicknamed the Citrus Park Princesses in last year's tournament, the team proved its grit by grinding out a 5-3 win vs. Pinellas Park in its previous game. Manager Marisol Hester said the team's bunting ability turned the tide.
"I think they all laid down bunts, everybody," Hester said. "The bunting queens came into play and we beat them with small ball. We have a lot of speed, and when we laid down some bunts they made a couple of errors. Speed makes you panic."
Going into that contest Citrus Park hadn't needed the ground attack. Holly Cristello's grand slam in the first game carried Citrus Park to a 14-2 victory. Cristello and Megan Baker have handled the catching as well as the offense, with Baker going 7-for-7 at one point. Citrus Park has outscored its opponents 34-8.
But it's pitching where Hester's club really excels. Erika San Juan entered the Pinellas Park game after two batters and finished the job. With six quality pitchers, Hester said her pitchers have to be on from the beginning.
"I don't sit around to wait for them to walk batters and score runs," Hester said. "I usually give them two batters. I don't give them a lot of room to warm up. Oh absolutely, I know by then if they have it."
Ashleigh Grove was on for Citrus Park against DeBary in the team's third game, firing a complete game in a 6-1 win. Cristello, Meghan Johnson, Kayla Sicarrotta and Kara Willis could figure into the equation today.
Tampa Bay's major softball team began its quest for a state title in fine form July 17 by sweeping a doubleheader. Tampa Bay ended both with the 10-run mercy rule, downing St. John's 19-0 in the opener, then beating Deltona 10-0.
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