By GREG AUMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 6, 2001
BROOKSVILLE -- It wasn't the first time Hernando might have considered its season finished.
Trailing Crystal River 4-0 after two innings in Saturday's regional final, the Leopards kept their composure and added the early deficit to the list of obstacles they've faced.
And the Leopards overcame it as they have everything else: convincingly.
Hernando (30-3) found production it hadn't seen in weeks, scoring five in the third and fourth and stunning the Pirates 14-4 in five innings that sent the Leopards to their second straight final four.
"Tonight we were on, and it was awesome," said Leopards pitcher Chrissy Hartley (22-2).
Hernando, a state runner-up last year that was ranked third in Florida, saw its promising post-season in jeopardy when four players were dismissed from the team and a fifth quit. Despite losing nearly half its starting lineup, Hernando is one victory from playing for a state title.
"If you had told me 12 or 13 games ago that Crystal River and Hernando would be in this position, I'd have taken some pretty strong bets on that," Leopards coach Ernie Chatman said. "Tonight, we swung the bat a lot better than we have in a long time."
Crystal River (15-16), which had made a surprise run through the district and regional playoffs, tagged Hartley for three runs in the first and another in the second. In the third, Hartley struck out the side, and the Leopards came to bat.
Kristi Langworthy, batting ninth, led off with a triple, the first of six consecutive batters to reach base. Scotti Scrivens tied the score with a two-run single, and Megan Orendorf gave Hernando the lead with a sacrifice fly.
"There was never a point in the game when I didn't think we could win," Orendorf said. "Mentally, they were up, and they were up on the scoreboard, but I knew we could still come through with our bats."
Hartley got out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth; then Hernando continued where it left off. Langworthy led off with a double, sparking another run of six batters reaching base. Jessica Maggard's two-run single gave Hernando a 10-4 lead.
Hernando next plays Thursday in Auburndale against top-ranked Miami Gulliver Prep.