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Return of injured pitcher Bayer is relief for Lecanto

By CAREY FREEMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2001


LECANTO -- Lecanto's Emily Bayer felt the sensations in her right arm after pitching in a March 8 loss to Hernando, and she was scared. Something, it seemed, was dreadfully wrong.

The tingling in the sophomore's fingers and the swelling throughout her arm indicated something serious -- something far removed from the usual sore shoulder or elbow, something that could cost Bayer her season and the Panthers their playoff hopes.

"I was afraid it was more serious than it was," Bayer said Wednesday. "I was afraid I wouldn't be able to pitch the rest of the season. It was all swollen, I couldn't move it and my fingers were all tingly."

No doubt Lecanto coach Amy Lilley had her moments of anxiety. It is the same arm that played a major role in the Panthers' resurgence this season, the same arm that pitched them to seven wins and posted a .788 ERA.

But Bayer and Lecanto are resting a little easier today. The injury was not as serious as once thought.

"I thought it would be serious, but it wasn't and I was relieved," Bayer said. "It feels fine, and I'm ready to get back into it. But I'll take my time. I don't go overboard."

The injury appears to be one caused by overuse. Seeking to immobilize the arm, Bayer's doctors applied a cast last week that Bayer had to wear for at least a week. On Tuesday, the cast was removed and the swelling and tingling were gone. The pitcher plans to be back in action against Central on Tuesday.

Bayer's return couldn't have come at a better time for Lecanto, which enters a crucial stretch next week. The Panthers begin at home against Central, which beat Lecanto 4-0 in the first game after Bayer was sidelined. After a trip to Gainesville for a tournament at Santa Fe Community College, the Panthers will play host to district rival Zephyrhills (April 2), Belleview (April 4) and Citrus (April 6).

"I hope to start getting back into it soon and plan to throw later in the week," Bayer said. "I think I can. We're doing real good this year, and I think we've been playing pretty good together."

ON THE CUSP: When asked to grade her team's first-half performance, Crystal River coach Laura Wingate gave her Pirates a flat D.

But that doesn't mean Crystal River can't dramatically improve. With seven of its nine losses coming by two runs or less, there is no doubt the Pirates (3-9) could return to the form that saw them qualify for the playoffs last season. The key, says Wingate, is timing. It's not that the Pirates necessarily make more errors and have fewer hits than their opposition. It's just that their timing is off.

"It seems like, when we make an error, they get a run. But, when they make an error, we don't," Wingate said.

Wingate isn't about to chalk it all up to bad luck. "Our defense right now is at a critical point in that we're still committing errors," she said. "And the fact is, we are not producing more runs than the other teams. We're not producing many runs period. Pitching and catching are probably our strength."

The pitching of freshman Cassie Pearson and senior Krystle Cummings have been one of the bright spots. Both have ERAs under 1.50..

FIRST TIME A CHARM: Tom Evans knew his Seven Rivers team probably would struggle early in its first varsity season, but he knew his superior athletes eventually would come around.

After three consecutive losses to start the season, the Warriors finally had their breakout game in a 16-2 thrashing of Cedar Key. Senior Julie Green led Seven Rivers, going 4-for-4 with three RBI. "We hit the ball well the last game, but I always thought we would hit well," Evans said. "We've just been overpowered by pitching in some cases. Our pitchers can throw strikes, but they have no velocity. The good part is, even though teams hit us, we're athletic enough to catch the ball."

Quote of the week

"She's been one of our top three hitters all year. She's a contact hitter. What's nice about her is she doesn't get shaken up there. She sees it and if she has a runner on, she'll deliver for us." -- Citrus coach Scott Waters on Mettina Maggiore after the Hurricanes shortstop ripped a three-run double in Tuesday's 15-4 win over Central.

Who's cold?

CRYSTAL RIVER: The Pirates (3-9) have lost four of their last five and nine of their last 10 games. The hard part for Crystal River fans is the way the Pirates seem to lose. Of their nine losses, seven have been by two runs or less. This despite the fact Crystal River has four of the top 10 hitters in Citrus County.

Who's hot?

CITRUS AND ITS BATS: After getting off to a rather disappointing 5-4 start, the Hurricanes have won five of their last six, including district games against Crystal River, Wesley Chapel, Dunnellon and Central. Citrus (10-5) has emerged from an early-season hitting slump, as evidenced in Tuesday's 15-4 victory over Central and a 10-0 spanking of Dunnellon the previous Friday.

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