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Improvement comes as no big surprise to Sharks

A balanced lineup has Nature Coast thinking it can play with anyone.

By KELLIE DIXON
Published April 17, 2007


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BROOKSVILLE - It's fine to call Nature Coast's 10-6 win against state-ranked Pasco a confidence booster.

You could even consider the victory the punctuation mark to a 12-3 finish in district play - the Sharks' best ever.

Just don't call it a fluke.

At least not around senior Bryan Daniels.

The pitcher-shortstop doesn't give that opinion any credit. He has watched his team improve from a two-win squad his freshman season to a No. 2 seed in the district.

He knows flukes. That wasn't a fluke.

That win "basically showed we can play with anybody," Daniels said.

Coming into the game, senior centerfielder Kyle Kuzniar said his team knew it had a chance because the Sharks had lost the earlier matchup 2-1. That was the closest Nature Coast ever had played Pasco.

"We had that vibe from Pasco," Kuzniar said. "They thought the close game was a fluke."

Friday, the Sharks set out to prove otherwise. They were aggressive at the plate. Led by senior Mike Dudek, who went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs, every Nature Coast batter recorded a hit. The Sharks are a balanced team. Nine players hit .300 or better, with junior Chris Jones leading with a .378 batting average.

When Pasco made mistakes, Nature Coast took advantage, something coach Dan Garofano said his now four-year-old team has done consistently this season. Friday it made a difference.

"(Pasco) made two errors on bunts," Garofano said. "They threw the ball away, and we took advantage of them. But that's what good teams do is they take advantage."

Defensively, Nature Coast held steady. When junior pitcher Travis Murray entered the game in the last four innings, the score was tied 6-6. Murray struck out four, gave up three hits and no runs to record the win, improving to 5-1. He has a 1.04 ERA.

That was "probably the best game any of us will play in our lives," senior Blake Dudkewic said Monday.

The thrill of the win hadn't worn off but Monday, the Sharks hardly looked like a team that had just played the game of its life. The Sharks rolled through batting practice with a single thought in the back of their minds: This season isn't over.

Kellie Dixon can be reached at kdixon@sptimes.com or (352) 544-9480.

[Last modified April 16, 2007, 22:19:51]


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