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Panthers like their chances

By KEITH NIEBUHR

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 24, 2001


LECANTO -- The Lecanto baseball team has lost 21 games, but it was the way the Panthers ended the regular season that has them feeling upbeat about this week's Class 4A, District 6 Tournament in Brooksville.

Against a Dunnellon squad that thoroughly dominated them in March, the Panthers pulled out a 6-4 come-from-behind win last Friday in a solid all-around performance -- one of only a handful they have had in 2001.

"I think that one game can definitely turn the season around," Lecanto outfielder Matt Andrews said. "We're all 0-0 right now."

Needing one victory in the district tourney to secure a spot in the final, not to mention a berth in the state playoffs, the third-seeded Panthers have a first-round draw in second-seeded Central that is somewhat to their liking. They went 1-1 against the Bears this season and will throw pitcher Jimmy Metz, who despite having a 2-6 record, is Lecanto's top hurler.

"We feel really good going into the (tournament)," Andrews said. "The whole team is starting to feel good again."

At 7-21, Lecanto has the same record it finished last year with -- something that was not expected during the preseason because the Panthers returned so many veterans from 2000. But after Lecanto struggled with eight consecutive losses to begin the season, it never was able to gain any momentum.

In most of their losses, the Panthers' hitting and pitching were not a problem, but their fielding was. Andrews said it was not uncommon for Lecanto to boot seven or eight balls in a game.

Against Dunnellon, the Panthers not only got strong pitching from Eric Stewart and timely hitting from players such as Justin Duncan and Dalton Meyers, but for a change were flawless in the field.

"Andrews made a diving catch in left field, and Metz made some good plays in centerfield," Lecanto coach Bill Emerson said. "We were all-around pretty tight on defense. We definitely needed that."

How the Panthers field this week could determine their post-season fate.

"The fielding errors have got to go," Andrews said. "We can have two or three, but when we have six or seven, we tend to easily lose."

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