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A Royal (Knights) uprising

Offensive-minded River Ridge has outscored its first six opponents, 87-9.

By IZZY GOULD
Published February 25, 2007


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NEW PORT RICHEY - Nicole Denney giggles at the thought of firing pitches for her River Ridge teammates at batting practice.

"I hate it," she said. "I'm so scared they're going to whale up on me."

Royal Knights coach Ernie Beck instructed Denney to serve up a juicy pitch over home plate for power hitter Michelle Miller during a recent practice. Miller is known for smacking line drives or cracking monster shots over fences.

"I'm like, 'Are you kidding me?' " Denney said. "I refused to do it. A fastball down the middle? There's no way."

Denney might be the only Royal Knight who understands what six opponents have learned firsthand.

The Royal Knights can hit. And when they hit, they score. A lot.

Off to a 6-0 start after Thursday's 5-4, come-from-behind victory against Zephyrhills 4-2 before Friday's game, River Ridge has outscored its opponents 87-9.

"Right now, it's better than I've ever had," Beck said. "The last couple of years, even when we played teams weaker than we were, I still don't think we produced as much as we should."

Eight batters with a minimum 15 at bats are hitting .400 or better.

Then there's the Royal Flush of Sarah Simon, Michelle McKonly, Michelle Miller and Shaun Ward.

Simon leads River Ridge, batting .765, and McKonly and Miller hit a double and triple, respectively, that led to the final inning comeback against the Bulldogs.

"Not only can they get the base hit, they can hit the ball out," Beck said. "That's what you want."

The win against Zephyrhills was River Ridge's first complete game of the season. Every other game ended early because the Royal Knights would jump out to a huge lead.

So far, River Ridge has wins against Wiregrass Ranch (22-0), Wesley Chapel (20-1), Hudson (15-0), Ridgewood (10-0) and Citrus (16-4).

Beck understands criticism that some of those wins were against weak teams, but that's what made the Zephyrhills victory so important.

He credits the production to strong hitting, which comes from more attention to offseason conditioning.

"When you're hitting the ball hard all the time, the chance of the other team making three or four errors, that's when you get your big innings," Beck said. "(Zephyrhills) didn't make the big error."

Now a tough stretch of games promises to test the Royal Knights this week, beginning Tuesday at Land O'Lakes.

Is this team for real?

"Once we start hitting, teams seem to lose their focus," McKonly said. "They get down on themselves and start making errors. We just rack up the points."

Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@tampabay.com or (813) 909-4619.

[Last modified February 24, 2007, 21:52:07]


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