By JOHN C. COTEY
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 25, 2001
NEW PORT RICHEY -- Ridgewood coach Greg Bolinger couldn't give a reason why Christine Beck has been so vexing against his Rams all season. But he said he was willing to step into the batter's box one day against the River Ridge ace and find out.
"I'd like to take a bat up there and find out what's happening," he said.
What's happening is this: The Rams can't hit Beck, unless of course you count lazy popups and slow rolling ground balls.
For the third time this season, the Royal Knights junior shut out the Rams, this time 4-0 as River Ridge advanced to the finals by beating Ridgewood.
The Royal Knights (24-5) will try for their first district championship when they meet Palm Harbor, a 7-0 winner over East Lake (10-12) in the other semifinal.
The Hurricanes (25-4) have beaten River Ridge twice this year, but both times the game was decided with one big inning. The Royal Knights got by Ridgewood the same way Tuesday.
Leading off the third inning, Adrienne Cicirello reached on an error. Two groundouts moved her to third before Stefani Simon singled off Breanne Hill (13-4) to make it 1-0.
Jill Hrovoski followed with a hit to rightfield, and Jen Brumbaugh -- River Ridge's only senior -- smacked a double to right-centerfield to score two runs and make it 3-0.
"I've been struggling lately," Brumbaugh said. "But this was Ridgewood and I wanted to make up for what I didn't do the last couple of games."
Beck (17-3) did the rest, striking out five and limiting Ridgewood (20-9) to just five singles.
LAND O'LAKES -- Dunedin and Springstead didn't trail in their games Tuesday, advancing to today's semifinals.
Dunedin beat Hudson 5-2, earning a 7 p.m. game against host Land O'Lakes. Meanwhile, Springstead stymied Tarpon Springs 1-0, earning the right to face top-seeded Clearwater at 5. Dunedin starter Tina Ward worked out of a pair of tough innings to keep the Falcons ahead.
With the bases loaded and no outs in the third, and with runners on first and second and no outs in the fifth, Ward (12-4) worked out of trouble and allowed just one run in the two innings courtesy of an error.
Dunedin (15-13) got triples from Sarah Kohlbrenner, Susan O'Connell and Sarah Blalock to offset six errors.
Hudson (9-15) scored a run in the top of the sixth to cut Dunedin's lead to 3-2, but the Falcons answered with two runs in their half of the sixth on RBI hits by O'Connell and Ward.
"They know they have to answer back," Dunedin coach Amy Hall said. "Otherwise, it's going to be a long ride home."
Tarpon Springs starter Dana Aldrich seemed to have Springstead baffled. Aldrich (2-8) allowed three hits in the first, but struck out the side to get out of the jam.
Aldrich then reeled off four hitless innings with five strikeouts.
However, the Eagles (7-18) got the lift they needed from Caitlin DeCristofaro's one-out triple in the bottom of the sixth. DeCristofaro scored on a Diana Eckert grounder when shortstop Courtney Wallace misplayed the ball. Springstead starter Emily Eicholtz (6-17) closed out the Spongers (5-14) in the top of the seventh thanks to a strikeout-throwout double play. -- WAYNE GRUMET
SEMINOLE -- The coach pleaded for none of his Mustangs to make the final out. It worked, even in a losing effort.
Mitchell lost its first-ever district softball game to Osceola on Tuesday, but in a 7-6, 10-inning thriller, the team did everything but go quietly.
Down 4-2 with two outs in the seventh, the Mustangs awoke for four consecutive hits to score three times and take a 5-4 lead. With a triple from Trish Blankenship, a double from Samantha Evans, a single from Jenna Pazourek and a triple from Kesha Williamson, Mitchell forced the second-seeded Warriors to come back in the bottom of the seventh and force extra innings.
"All of a sudden I just said, "Nobody makes the last out,"' Mitchell coach Scott Bisbe said. "I guess I should have been saying it all year."
Osceola (6-11) tied the game in the seventh on an inside-the-park home run from Michelle Tatlock. In the top of the 10th, Mitchell (6-21) reclaimed the lead 6-5 when Joanna Brown scored on an error, but Osceola took the lead a final time on a sacrifice fly from Brittany Lincicome that scored Holly Elliott. -- JOHN SCHWARB
DUNNELLON -- Crystal River moved a game closer to its second consecutive playoff berth thanks to a combined one-hitter by Krystle Cummings and Cassie Pearson and five errors by Wesley Chapel in a 5-0 victory. The Pirates (12-14) meet Citrus at 5 p.m. in today's semifinals. Hernando takes on the winner of Tuesday's late game between host Dunnellon and South Sumter at 7.
Crystal River started well against the Wildcats (5-16) and didn't let up. Cummings struck out the side in the first inning and didn't allow a hit in four innings, finishing with seven strikeouts before giving way to Pearson. Meanwhile, the Pirates took advantage of three first-inning errors to score two runs then added two in the fourth and one in the sixth. Tiffany Goode led the Pirates at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a run scored.
"We did a good job defensively, and Tiffany called a good game. And everything seemed to work good," Pirates coach Laura Wingate said.
Though Cummings was in full control entering the fifth, Wingate stuck to her plan to use both pitchers in every game. Pearson allowed the only hit but was not threatened, finishing with three strikeouts. "The playing time they are getting is the playing time they have earned," Wingate said of her two-pitcher system. "When Cassie gets in there, she does a good job, too. So I like what we're doing right now." -- CAREY FREEMAN