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Lecanto is on brink of celebration

By CAREY FREEMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 10, 2001


LECANTO -- There is no official designation from the Citrus County School board or even from the three county schools, but the county championship -- mythical or not -- is a reality in the minds of the area's players.

On that note, all eyes turn toward Lecanto, which sits just one win away from a regular-season sweep of county rivals Citrus and Crystal River. All that remains for the Panthers to claim the title is today's 6 p.m. matchup at Crystal River. If Lecanto pulls off the win, it will mark the first time it has swept both county rivals since the teams began playing fast-pitch softball. And that includes the Panthers' 1996 state championship squad, which lost a regular-season game to, ... you guessed it, Crystal River.

"It should be a tough game," Lecanto coach Amy Lilley said.

The Panthers wouldn't be in this position if not for an uplifting turnaround that was punctuated by Friday's 3-2, 12-inning defeat of Citrus. Lecanto had lost seven of eight games entering last week, but it rebounded with one-run wins over district rival Zephyrhills (2-1), Belleview (1-0) and Citrus. The Panthers, for expected reasons, will remember the last most clearly.

"That was a very big win because we felt like we were in a slump," Lilley said. "We won two games earlier in the week, but this was the nail in the coffin."

Lilley's players, who had lost and retaken the lead twice over the 12-inning marathon, were elated after the victory. "They were extremely pumped," Lilley said. "I don't think I've ever seen them that pumped. But they should have been. They played a very good game."

WIN SOME, LOSE SOME: Scott Waters and his Citrus players were dejected after Friday's loss to Lecanto, but the Hurricanes refused to dwell on the negatives.

Citrus has a lot of positives to take its mind off the difficult game. Though the loss ended an eight-game winning streak, the 'Canes are 10-2 in their last 12, including Thursday's 3-2 win over then No. 3 Hernando.

The hero in that game, as she was in all others last week, was second baseman Alycia LePage, whose seventh-inning, two-out RBI double pushed pinch-runner Kalli Grimes across with the winning run. LePage also scored both of Citrus' runs in the loss to Lecanto.

In addition, the Hurricanes' late-season push has allowed them to seal up the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the district tournament -- something that did not go unnoticed by Waters after Friday's loss.

"(Pitcher) Tab (Schrufer) was tired coming in, and I wasn't sure I wanted to throw her today, but she said she wanted to go," Waters said.

Schrufer had pitched 14 innings, including seven the night before, in the three days leading up to Friday.

"This game means nothing in terms of the district standings, and it really means nothing overall," Waters said. "We're still going into district with a first-round bye."

WARRIOR BREAKOUT: The Seven Rivers Christian girls are fast learners. Though this is the Warriors' first season at the varsity level, they are quickly showing an ability to win -- thanks to an athletic defense and superb hitting.

Seven Rivers has won three of its last five games and laid a serious whipping on Shores Christian in a double-header sweep last Wednesday. Powered by six homers and a 9-for-9 performance from Julie Green, the Warriors slammed Shores 23-2 and 18-9 to improve to 4-3, then fell back to .500 after a loss to Gainesville Countryside Christian on Thursday.

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