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Baseball preview

By KELLIE DIXON
Published March 1, 2007


Citrus

Coach: Jon Bolin, fifth year

Last season: 20-10

Key returnees: C Matt Shott, Jr.; 3B-P Joey Budnick, Sr.; 3B-P Brandon Barosso, So.; SS Nick DelGuidice, Sr.; 1B-OF-DH Justin Budd, Sr.; CF-P Jonathan Pullen, Sr.

Key losses: C Mark Xenophon, 3B-P Cellin Neptune, P-3B Derek Desomma, Randy Hernandez, Anthony DelGuidice - graduated.

Key newcomers: OF-P Ricky Carlson, Jr.; RF Josh Titus, Jr.; OF-P Jesse Hall, Jr.; P-INF Geoffrey Labrador, So.; 1B-DH Harlan Kelly, So.; P-INF Bradley Paul, Jr.

Outlook: The 'Canes, Class 4A, District 6 runnerups in 2006, will miss the strength of top hitters Hernandez and Neptune, but Bolin isn't necessarily looking for replacements. Instead, Citrus will be a more balanced, slightly quicker team that plans to play small ball. Defensive play will continue to be a priority for the two-time district finalist.

Crystal River

Coach: Bobby Stack, first year

Last season: Not available

Key returnees: C Herbie Sickler, Jr.; SS-RHP Kyle Metz, Jr.; 2B-SS C.J. Trenary, Jr.; CF-LHP Devin Robbins, Sr.; RHP-Util. Matthew Garlock, So.; OF Joey Fruh, Jr.; C-INF Russ Smith, Sr.

Key newcomers: 3B-RHP Carl Scarano, Jr. (transfer from Lecanto); 1B-LHP Hunter Smith, Jr. (transfer from Citrus).

Key losses: Most of the starters, including P-3B Todd Bayer, P-1B Matt Schrantz, SS-OF Chris Dvorscak, P-OF Kyle Daquanna.

Outlook: The Class 4A-6 favorite returns a strong nucleus of talented athletes who have been playing together for quite some time. Stack, a first-year coach and 2000 Crystal River graduate, worried pitching would be a problem early. But the Pirates (5-1, 2-0) recently got John Dellatorre back in the rotation and have a host of healthy arms that are building confidence with every game.

Lecanto

Coach: Jim Manos, second year

Last season: 5-16

Key returnees: C Brian Herrin, Jr; 2B Chris Holland, Sr.; 3B Jon Barr, Jr.; P-1B Joel Seijas, Sr.; OF Steven Lofaro, Sr.; OF Mike Tirpak

Key losses: P Eric Mylin, 1B-3B Josh Hoggard.

Key newcomers: Justin Medina, Jr.

Outlook: Ghandi has famously suggested folks "Be the change you want to see in the world." Well, Manos is encouraging his players to apply that concept to the team. The Panthers have embraced the idea. Pitching is ahead of schedule, hitting is adequate and defense is improving. "Hopefully we'll be at our best come districts," Manos said.

Seven Rivers Christian

Coach: Steve Ekeli, fourth year.

Last season: 8-10

Key returnees: INF-P Justin Richardson, Sr.; OF-P Drew Donovan, Sr.; INF Andrew Gage; C Derek Labahn, Jr.; OF Walter Bunts

Key losses: OF Taylor Swander, graduated.

Key newcomers: OF-P Chris Dobson, Sr. (transfer from Crystal River); INF-P Michael Manning, 8th grader.

Outlook: The Warriors have pitching with four solid arms, but are working on their offense. They will have some growing pains early, but should have a more balanced team this season and hope to top the school's best season - a Class A, District 7 runnerup finish two years ago. "I think we've got all the pieces in the right spots to make another good, strong run again this year," Ekeli said.