By CAREY FREEMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001
UMATILLA -- Eventually the rest of Class 3A will catch on, but for now the clock continues to tick and the glass slipper remains firmly in place for Crystal River.
The Pirates (15-15) entered Thursday's Class 3A, Region 2 semifinal as the only team in the post-season with a losing record, but that changed rather abruptly as Crystal River used a six-run outburst in the third inning to score a relatively easy 6-0 victory over Umatilla.
"This is something that you always hear about from other coaches," Pirates coach Laura Wingate said. "You work hard all season long and nothing matters when you get to districts. But this is the first time in 12 years of coaching that it's happened in that way.
"We had a less-than-.500 season and they're dominating in the playoffs. They're peaking at the playoff level."
No doubt the Pirates have peaked at the right time. From its district semifinal win over Citrus to Thursday's whipping of the Bulldogs (15-10), Crystal River has been a different team from the one that lost eight of its first 10 games.
And nothing better illustrates this than the third inning, when the Pirates put on a hitting and baserunning display that left Umatilla shell shocked.
Alisa Tisdale started the rally with a leadoff double and was followed by Ashley Williams, who advanced on a dropped ball at first base. Those two would spark the Pirates with a crafty double steal that allowed Tisdale to steal home for the first run and Williams to steal second and third.
But the biggest blow was dealt by Melissa Coburn, whose two-run double gave Crystal River a 3-0 lead with one out. An RBI single from Krystle Cummings scored Coburn and a dropped fly ball by Bulldogs' centerfielder Melissa Blackwell allowed the final two runs to score.
Not to be outdone, the Pirates' defense was equally stellar, committing no errors in its support of Cummings and Cassie Pearson, who combined for a one-hitter. In fact, Umatilla managed to get just three runners on base, two on hit batters and another on a second-inning single.
Pearson picked up the save, pitching three perfect innings in the fifth, sixth and seventh.