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Improved Pirates in spotlight

The program that was 7-21 a season ago is a hit and will be featured on High School Xtra.

By KEITH NIEBUHR

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2001


Crystal River fans may want to set their VCRs.

Sunshine Network's High School Xtra sent reporter James Bates and a camera crew to Crystal River on Monday to do a story about the Pirates' remarkable turnaround.

One year after going 7-21, Crystal River was 11-1 and ranked eighth in the Times Tampa Bay Top 10 prior to Monday night's game against Wesley Chapel.

"I think it will definitely show that our system is having success," first-year Pirates coach Brent Hall said. "We have the same players we had last year. The only difference is that we have them a lot more focused."

Expect a good portion of the segment to focus on Hall, who never has won fewer than 21 games in a season in five years as a head coach. Before moving to Crystal River, he led Jacksonville Arlington Country Day to the 2000 Class A state title.

Hall found out about Xtra's plans last Friday and told the team prior to its game against Lecanto.

"They were very excited," Hall said. "They feel like it's a great opportunity to step up and be recognized at the state level. I'm very proud of them. It's like having a newborn baby and watching it grow. That's what it's been like for me. They've worked so hard and now they're getting to enjoy the fruits of their labor."

The segment will air March 22 at 5:30 p.m. and again at 11.

"Coach Hall has an impressive track record," Bates said. "We've followed him through the years and his record speaks for itself. To come (to Crystal River) and for (the Pirates) to have the turnaround they've had from last year is pretty good."

MCLAIN INJURED: Citrus pitcher/outfielder Sam McLain pulled a hamstring in last week's 10-9 loss to Wesley Chapel and is questionable for this week's home games against Springstead and Dunnellon. McLain also has a sore throwing arm and has not pitched in two weeks.

"He's getting some treatment on his hamstring and on his arm," Citrus coach Mike Taylor said. "We hope to get him back soon, but we'll have to wait and see."

McLain is hitting .433.

FIELDING WOES: In Crystal River's 21-10 win against Lecanto last week, both teams committed eight errors.

Hall said too much was made of the miscues and blamed the problems on a wet Lecanto infield. It rained before the game, and the field was chopped up early in the contest.

"The field was just unbelievable," Hall said. "What we had out there was a cow pasture. There were no true hops."

Citrus, Crystal River and Lecanto each have eight-error games this season. Only Crystal River managed to win.

NOTEWORTHY: Hall has a career record of 109-25 for an .813 winning percentage. Crystal River's 11-1 start is his best as a coach. ... Bates' name is a familiar one to college football fans. He started at linebacker on the University of Florida's 1996 national championship team.

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