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Freshmen players are producing for Hernando


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 14, 2001

[Times photo: Maurice Rivenbark]
Ashley Rogers has helped lead the Leopards to a 10-1 start.
With only two seniors graduating from last year's state runner-up team, Hernando's lineup wouldn't seem to be prime opportunity for a freshman to find a spot, let alone make an immediate impact.

Christen Baldwin and Ashley Rogers have done that and more, factoring in as a major part of the Leopards' 10-1 start. After Hernando rallied from a 4-1 deficit to beat Citrus 8-6 on Monday, it was easy to see how quickly the two newcomers have settled into the lineup.

In each of her three at-bats, Rogers drove in key runs -- the game's first run, the go-ahead runs in a five-run second inning and the eventual winning run in the fifth.

Rogers, who has unseated a third-year varsity catcher in senior Megan Orendorf, batted fifth and went 3-for-3 with two doubles and four RBI. She also picked a runner off first base to end the top of the fourth.

"I'm glad I did pretty good -- I've been coming out of a slump," said Rogers, who had gone 0-for-4 against Crystal River last week. "It's really fun out here, winning. We've worked hard as a team."

Baldwin, who has settled in as the Leopards' leadoff hitter and center fielder, sparked the rally in the second. Sophomore Kristi Langworthy had bunted into a double play after Hernando's first two batters reached base, and Baldwin ripped an RBI single to right field to score Jamie Kunkle.

Coach Ernie Chatman said he isn't surprised by the freshmen players' early success, explaining that it's more common in softball than in baseball.

"It's never surprising when you see freshmen that play well in softball," Chatman said. "It's never a surprise, whether it be against us or for us. There were probably five or six pitchers in the state tournament that won who were all freshmen. Girls mature a little earlier, and we have a tendency from watching the boys that freshmen are supposed to come along. Girls are different, and they're ready to play as freshmen."

BEARING DOWN: Central's rough start continued with an 11-4 loss to Pasco on Thursday, dropping the Bears to 5-6.

"We got clocked," coach Benny Martinez said. "It was terrible. Error after error after error. There must have been six or seven, and every time with runners on base."

Martinez shuffled his lineup at the last minute because freshman first baseman Tonya Stevenson hadn't shown up for the game. She had injured her neck in physical education during school Thursday, but Martinez, who works at West Hernando Middle School, hadn't gotten her message that she wasn't coming to the game.

Instead of just filling a reserve in at first, Martinez shifted five players to different positions -- a move he said contributed to his team's defensive struggles. "I've got nine starters and that's it -- everyone else is working for next year," Martinez said. Jen Clark, who threw a 10-inning, two-hit shutout in a 1-0 victory against Citrus earlier in the week, dropped to 4-5 with the loss to Pasco. The Bears have four regulars batting .300 or better. Shauna Dampier (.429), Heather Krasniewski (.344), Tracie Ploskonka (.324) and Lindsay Grey (.306).

RESCHEDULED: The first Hernando-Central game, which was postponed last month due to smoke blowing in from the wildfires in Polk County, has been rescheduled for April 18 -- the final week of the regular season. That game is at Central. The two will play Friday at Tom Varn Park.

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