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Pirates go for upset in final

By CAREY FREEMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001


CRYSTAL RIVER -- Crystal River scored its biggest win of the season in Wednesday's 7-0 district semifinal romp over No. 2-seeded Citrus.

Now comes the biggest challenge: getting the Pirates (13-14) to focus on tonight's matchup with the third-ranked team in Class 3A.

"We've got to keep the momentum going," Pirates coach Laura Wingate said about today's 7:30 p.m. 3A-6 final against top-seeded Hernando (26-3). "They can't be satisfied. I don't think they are. I think we're hungry, and I think they can beat Hernando."

The Pirates found themselves in a similar situation entering Wednesday's semifinal against the Hurricanes, a team they had lost to three times this season, including 8-2 at home in the final regular-season meeting. Yet it was Citrus that seemed to feel the pressure Wednesday, committing seven errors and allowing five unearned runs.

Crystal River's secret? It made Citrus make plays, something Citrus did not do. Wingate will use a similar strategy against the Leopards, who have lost four starters in the past three weeks. Christen Baldwin (shortstop), Ashley Rogers (catcher) and Christene Dennis (first base) were suspended, and third baseman Jamie Kunkle quit. However, Hernando was no worse for wear in the second semifinal against Dunnellon thanks in large part to the dominating pitching and clutch hitting of Chrissy Hartley.

A senior, Hartley allowed just three runners to reach base (two on errors) and struck out 15 in Hernando's 1-0 win.

Hartley struck out seven and allowed just three hits in her most recent outing against Crystal River, a 5-0 win. Working in the Pirates' favor are the suspensions and defections. If Wednesday's game is any indicator, Hernando might have lost some offensive punch as well as defensive continuity. In addition, look for Crystal River to test the Hernando infield with bunts and steals.

"We've got to do what we did to Citrus," Wingate said. "We've got to hit the ball. We've got to be aggressive and put the ball in play."

The Pirates also will need some contributions. The leader -- both at the plate and on the mound -- against Citrus was Krystle Cummings.

She held the Hurricanes to just one hit during the first four innings and drove in three runs, two on a single in the fifth.

"We've lost to Hernando all year, and we almost beat them once," Cummings said. "So we want to beat them as bad as we wanted to beat Citrus.

"I think we have to play as good as we did (Wednesday) and keep hitting the ball."

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