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Carrying a big stick at Lecanto

Dave Logue has always been a good hitter, and now in his final year he is the county's leader.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 18, 2000


LECANTO -- The very thing that made Dave Logue good enough to start on the varsity team as a first-year high school player is what continues to make him a valuable asset for the Panthers.

His bat.

Four years ago, Lecanto coach Bill Emerson asked the junior varsity coach to send up a couple of freshmen for Emerson to evaluate. Logue was one of them.

The reason? He was hitting line drives off the fence daily in practice.

It didn't take Emerson long to decide that the young player should wear a varsity uniform.

"His bat was the main thing that opened my eyes," Emerson said. "I gave him a chance his freshman year and he made the best of it. He even hit a grand slam that year."

Now nearing the end of his final season, Logue is still leading the Panthers and his ability to hit the ball has only gotten better. He's the county's leading hitter, batting .391 through 23 games.

The 18-year-old senior believes his experience during that first season was invaluable.

"I felt like I learned a lot," Logue said. "The pitching is way better in varsity than JV. My first at-bat I hit a one-hop double off the fence against Springstead. I was pretty nervous because I had never seen that type of pitching before.

"When you do something like that (move up to varsity) you don't know if you can hang, but after that first hit, I was like, "I don't think I'll ever forget this.' I had confidence from then on."

Later that year, Logue hit a grand slam in a game against Citrus and went on to earn all-county honors, batting .300 for the season.

Logue has been invaluable in the field too. During his freshman year, he started at third base because that's where the team needed him. His sophomore season, the team needed outfielders so he alternated between center and right.

For the past two seasons, Logue has been a mainstay in center and also pitches, when needed.

But his bat is where he is most valuable.

"He's always been a very good hitter," Emerson said. "He has a very pretty swing. He works very hard, he's got a good arm and a good attitude. All that together makes him a very good player."

A very good player on a team that has struggled this season -- and every season Logue has played. Lecanto reached the .500 mark earlier this season, but is currently mired in a nine-game losing streak.

What makes it all the more painful is that many of those have been close, the most recent being an 8-7 loss to Springstead on Thursday. Lecanto is 5-17.

"It has been tough this year," Logue said. "We started off 4-4 and we've only won one game since. It's hard, but the games we've been losing we've had chances to win. (A lot) have been decided by one run. We know we can win, but sometimes we make too many mental mistakes. I still think we can (do well in the district tournament) if we put it all together."

As the team's captain and one of only three seniors, Logue feels an extra responsibility to remain upbeat even during the worst of times.

"I'm the captain so I try to lead by example," he said. "I try to do all the right things at school, be at practice every day, be early to games and I don't talk back to the umpire. I tell the guys you have to keep your head up when you make a mistake; it's going to happen."

Despite the hardships the team has endured, Logue has managed to persevere. In Thursday's loss, he was 2-for-3 with a double, one run and three RBI. Through 23 games, he has scored 20 runs and has 17 RBI. He leads the team with six home runs.

Logue believes a change from third to second in the batting order has helped him.

"I like it there and I've been hitting pretty good," he said. "Sometimes I think I put way too much pressure on myself at third. At second, I'm real relaxed and I try to get it going and get the inning started. It is seeming to work. I'm not putting all the pressure on myself.

"Everytime I'm up I think I can hit. I've seen so many high school pitchers, that I always feel like if they throw me a pitch, I can hit it."

Emerson said Logue's hard work and determination has put him in a position to be able to play at the next level.

"He's definitely college material," Emerson said. "Every year he has steadily improved. He should be able to play somewhere if he can get noticed. I firmly believe he can succeed in some college program."

For now, Logue would like to see a little more success in his high school program. He remains optimistic that Lecanto can be successful when the district tournament begins next week.

"Like I always say, we're this close," he said. "And coach says it all the time too. We've been losing by one run lately and we could have won every game we played. A couple of runs here, a few making the plays there and we are 5-0 (over the past five games).

"The good thing is the guys are all pretty heads up. They don't really get down. They might get down that night after the game, but the next game or the next practice we're ready to play."

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