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Sickler lifts Pirates over his former team

Sophomore's three-run homer gives Crystal River the lead for good.

By BRIAN SUMERS
Published March 4, 2006


CRYSTAL RIVER - Herbie Sickler told himself he wouldn't swing at the 3-1 pitch unless it was perfect.

Then a waist-high fastball came his way, and the sophomore drove it about 340 feet over the wall in left-center.

Seconds later, when Sickler crossed the plate following the three-run homer, the Pirates held a 4-1 first-inning lead.

With a starting lineup featuring three former Lecanto players, including Sickler, Crystal River beat the Panthers 7-3 Friday night at Mike Hampton Field.

For Sickler, the Panthers' starting catcher last season as a freshman, the home run and the win were special.

Like current teammates Kevin Fry and Kyle Metz, Sickler had played with most of the Lecanto players in high school and Little League.

"I wanted to at least do something," Sickler said. "But I was too excited to watch it land."

Sickler also coaxed Pirates starter Matt Schrantz (2-1) through a tough first inning. Schrantz allowed hits to the first two batters he faced, and the Pirates quickly trailed 1-0.

But the left-hander permitted just two more hits - both in the fourth when Lecanto scored twice - and the Pirates coasted to their second straight win.

Schrantz seemed to throw harder as the game progressed. He retired the final nine batters in order, striking out four of them.

"I warmed up a lot toward the end," said Schrantz, offering "props" to his catcher for his defensive work. "I was throwing smoke."

Schrantz, a senior and team leader, also credited Sickler for not getting too excited after his home run.

"He's such a good player," Schrantz said. "He goes on to the next thing. You can't get too happy."