CRYSTAL RIVER - Senior catcher Ryan McPherson drove in two runs and scored another as Citrus knocked off Crystal River 4-1 Saturday.
It wasn't fancy, but Citrus got the job done with station-to-station running coupled with solid pitching and two key defensive plays.
"We don't hit home runs," McPherson said. "We're just a hit-and-run, bunting kind of team, but when we execute, we capitalize on it and win."
First-time starter sophomore Joey Budnick (1-0) used groundballs and mixed up his speed in a complete game of six hits, four strikeouts and three walks.
"Joey was extremely important for us," Citrus coach Jon Bolin said. "He's not going to knock the bat out of your hand, but he gave our defense a chance to make plays."
Led by McPherson behind the plate, the 'Canes defense stepped up, throwing two out at home in the third inning. McPherson didn't disappoint in the seventh inning when the Pirates took a last stab at victory. Down by three with two outs and the tying run on deck, James Kellogg was tagged out at the plate to end the game.
"It was a perfect ending for a frustrating varsity game," Crystal River coach Rob Cummins said. "The risk was not worth the reward."
Matt Schrantz scored the Pirates' lone run, propelled by two shortstop errors that got him on base and again for the score. The Pirates (4-3, 2-3 in 4A-9) left 10 on base, two in each of the first three innings.
Citrus (3-4, 3-2 in 4A-9) won despite four infield errors. Making his varsity debut, Crystal River pitcher Kyle Daquanna struggled from start, giving up three runs, and eight hits by the third inning. Schrantz, a junior lefty, replaced him in the fourth.
"He wasn't throwing as hard as he normally does and he wasn't hitting the locations we were calling," Cummins said. "After three innings you can tell he couldn't get it going and I didn't want to leave him out there to have bad things happen."
Dawn Reiss can be reached at 352 564-3628 or firstname.lastname@example.org