Bulldogs cap district play with a victory

Combination of good hitting and Hernando errors boost Zephyrhills.

Published March 30, 2007

BROOKSVILLE - At the beginning of the year, Craig Milburn said he would be happy if his Zephyrhills team finished this year with a .500 record.

His players, however, had a different mind-set.

"I had faith," sophomore third baseman Christin Bettcher said.

That faith is paying off. Led by a solid defense and the timely hitting of players like Bettcher, Zephyrhills beat Hernando 10-6 on Thursday to finish its Class 4A, District 8 schedule with a 10-4 record.

Bettcher went 2-for-5 with three RBIs and the Bulldogs overcame a 3-0 deficit to finish a season sweep of the team it could face in the district semifinals.

In the third inning, Jessica McCall hit a two-run double that scored Ashley Anderton and Stephanie Hartman to tie it at 4. From that point, Zephyrhills seized control of the game.

As reliever Andrea Durrett used her offspeed pitches to stymie Hernando's powerful lineup, the Bulldog hitters went to work. Zephyrhills put runners on base in every inning, scoring four in the fifth and two in the sixth. Bettcher had an RBI single in the fifth and a two-run double in the sixth.

But Hernando errors aided the Bulldogs as well. In the fifth, a throwing error on a stolen-base attempt led to two runs. Both of the Bulldogs' runs in the sixth originally reached base on walks.

Hernando coach Kevin Bittinger, whose Leopards are 9-3 in the district and have all but locked up the No. 2 seed, said the game was a learning experience.

But, he added, "We need to stop with all these learning experiences."

The biggest lesson anyone learned, though, is that Zephyrhills looks poised for another late-season surge.

Last year, the Bulldogs advanced to the Class 4A region finals. This year, despite the absence of several key players from a year ago, they likely will enter the tournament as a No. 3 seed.

That means Hernando and Zephyrhills could face each other again with a playoff berth on the line.