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Girls softball: Advantage. . . Leopards

By GREG AUMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2000


BROOKSVILLE -- Tuesday night's district softball final saw both Hernando and Central come out with unusual lineups compared to their normal batting orders, with the hope of gaining any advantage over their county rival.

Hernando moved centerfielder Katye Altieri to third in the order after having her lead off all year. That shifted sluggers Kimi Olmstead and Chrissy Hartley to the top two spots in the order. Coach Ernie Chatman said he had heard that Central would be walking those two whenever circumstances allowed for it, so he wanted to maximize their number of at-bats.

"They didn't do what we had heard they were going to do, but that was okay too because we still had our big hitters right there in a row," said Chatman, whose team eked out a 2-1 victory to improve to 23-3.

As it turns out, Central starter Jen Pape didn't walk a single Leopard, but the adjusted lineup still produced modest results. Olmstead and Hartley struck out in the first, both singled during Hernando's two-run third inning, and Olmstead added a single in the fifth, stealing second and advancing to third on a throwing error.

Central tweaked its batting order as well, moving Jen Clark to the leadoff position and moving shortstop Lindsay Gray up to third.

"Lindsay usually hits (Hartley) pretty good so we moved her up," Bears coach Benny Martinez said. "I had the lineup one way, then changed it right before the game."

The battle of deceptions continued early in the game when Martinez realized that Hernando had figured out his signs. He made himself a decoy while first base coach Paul Pape delivered the signals.

After Jen Pape led off the fourth with a walk, coach Pape called for consecutive sacrifice bunts from Jamie Pape and Tracie Ploskonka, which gave Central a runner on third with two outs. The strategy fell short when Shauna Dampier struck out to end the inning.

"I would have never bunted with one out, needing two runs like that when we've got a good stick (Ploskonka, who had Central's first hit) up," Martinez said. "But if we had scored one there, then the last one we got in the seventh would have been sufficient."

With two throwing errors in the final two innings, Hartley had seen her team's 2-0 lead cut in half with two outs in the seventh inning and the tying run at second base. Was the junior nervous on the mound?

"At the end, yes, I was very, very nervous. "Please, just throw strikes, arm,' " Hartley said after the game. "I was so calm the whole game. After we got those two runs, I was so happy. Then at the end, I have never had more of a rush in my life than tonight. That relieved all the pressure."

Chatman was confident enough in Hartley's poise that he didn't even visit the mound as things began to fall apart in the seventh.

With runners at first and second and one out in the seventh, Central's Lindsay Gray laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners into scoring position. Chatman said he had seen the bunt coming and told Hartley to take the easy out at first base and not even consider going after the lead runner at third.

"I didn't care if they got two runners in scoring position, I wanted the easy out," Chatman said.

REMATCH?: Both coaches mentioned the possibility that the Leopards-Bears rivalry might not be over this season. The two teams could meet again in the second round of the playoffs if both win their opening-round games against District 7's top two teams.

"We could very well see Act IV of this before we're done," said Chatman, whose team would again have home-field advantage, which has helped the Leopards in two wins against Central this season. Hernando lost the game at Central.

Martinez said he would like another chance to beat the Leopards. "Somebody's got to lose, somebody's got to win," he said. "Next time, we'll beat them."

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