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Land O'Lakes feels better with Savage in the lineup

The Gator senior overcame an illness before Tuesday's game in time to go 3-for-3 and make a key play at the plate.

By STEVE LEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 3, 2001


LAND O'LAKES -- Jen Savage doesn't plan to feast on lasagna to the point of becoming ill like she did before Tuesday's game against Leto.

That might or might not be a good thing for Land O'Lakes.

Savage said she vomitted "about eight or nine times" before a 7-6 win over Leto that advanced the Gators to tonight's Class 4A, Region 3 semifinal. Land O'Lakes (18-9) hosts Bradenton Southeast (9-16) at 7:30.

Coach Jerry English left the decision to play Tuesday up to Savage, who came through with the best game of her three-year varsity career.

Savage, one of two Land O'Lakes seniors, went 3-for-3 with three RBI and a walk. And the 5-foot-1 catcher's block of home plate on a close play in the top of the seventh inning kept the game tied 6-6.

"At crunch time, she really comes through when you need it," English said.

"I was getting a little worried, but she's a fighter," pitcher Ashley Patton, the other Land O'Lakes senior, said after watching Savage vomit in a dugout trash can before the game. "I knew she'd still play. That's how she is.

"She's an animal," Patton continued. "That little-bitty thing can do anything."

Jokingly referring to the lasagna as "power food," Savage attributed her output against Leto to a desire to cap her career with a final four playoff berth.

"I'm not ready for the season to be over," Savage said. "I want to be at states. I don't care if we win or lose, I just want to be there."

A .253 hitter with nine RBI and 10 runs scored, Savage has been on the receiving end of Patton's pitches for all but four innings in the past two seasons. Patton, who won her career-best 15th game Tuesday, wouldn't have it any other way.

"(Tuesday) night I was getting down (after the Falcons twice overcame two-run deficits to take the lead)," Patton said. "She just looked at me and told me to smile. That helped so much."

The battery mates, who also have been teammates the past three seasons on the Tampa Bay Mustangs traveling team, will take their respective places on the field tonight one more time in their quest to reach the final four. Their coach wouldn't have it any other way.

"(Patton has) worked four years for this," English said. "She's the best we've got so we're going to throw the best."

As for Savage, the coach expects her to be fully recovered from Tuesday's illness. Playing at home tonight, English said, will be advantageous to the Gators.

"We don't have to travel and we get home at a decent hour," English said.

But, English added, the team had better not overlook Bradenton Southeast just because of its losing record. Leto also had a losing record, the coach noted, and nearly rallied for a win.

"You can't tell (how good a team is) by losing records," English said.

"It depends on the competition, just like Leto. (The Falcons) hit good. They just didn't have the pitching."

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