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Column: A bat on the up and up

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Wed. March 13, 2013 | John C. Cotey | Email

Column: A bat on the up and up

NEW PORT RICHEY  — When Morgan Tolle swings her bat, good things happen.

Not some of the time.

Not most of the time.

But lately, all of the time.

•••

Wednesday against Ridgewood, Tolle went 3-for-3 with two doubles.

The night before against rival Mitchell, a double and a homer and five RBIs.

Three days before that, a 4-for-4 game with two triples.

And before that … well, you get the picture.

“It’s phenomenal,” said River Ridge coach Ernie Beck, who can only marvel at his second baseman’s recent string of batting brilliance, while hoping there’s no end in sight.

Minus an 0-for-3 game against Plant, in which Tolle admitted to being a “little jumpy” and overeager, the Royal Knight junior is a scalding 25 for her past 34, a .735 average.

“It just feels good,” said Tolle, who doesn’t have an explanation for her blazing bat, just a shrug of the shoulders and a suggestion that hey, sometimes practice does make perfect, or pretty darned near it.

After all, if she’s not relaxing at the beach, she’s over at best friend and sophomore teammate Kenzi Maguire’s house hitting in the backyard batting cages built by her for Kevin Maguire, a former Pittsburgh Pirate catching farmhand.

“It’s just fun,” said Kenzi Maguire, and that helps explain why the Royal Knights are unimpressed about outscoring the opposition 175-20 this season.

“It’s because we hit all the time,” she added.

•••

Maguire, and a host of other Royal Knights, have all contributed to Tolle’s success.

Because Madisyn Palmer is hitting .500 and Maguire is hitting .500 with four home runs (and seven RBIs in Wednesday’s win over the Rams) and Makenzie Goluba is hitting .425, pitching around Tolle is not much of an option.

Combine that with Goluba’s pitching (0.42 ERA), and River Ridge needs to only tighten up its defense to be considered a legit postseason contender.

“If you hit the ball in this game and score runs,” Beck said, “you can cover up a lot of mistakes.”

The Royal Knights are 13-1, which includes an 11-0 win over longtime rival Mitchell. Beck said his team hadn’t beaten the Mustangs in such a lopsided fashion since Mitchell’s first season.

They have played a tough schedule, with games against Seminole, Bloomingdale, Durant and Plant.

But before he starts designing state championship T-shirts, Beck continually reminds his team about how last season, in which the Knights were almost as dominant, ended: a 10-0 playoff loss to Lakewood Ranch.

“Coach kind of brings it up every game,” Tolle said.

“Well, we did get 10-run ruled,” Maguire said.

“It was bad.”

•••

To avoid a repeat, there is no bragging about the offensive numbers being put up, no crowing about 21-1, 18-0, 17-2, 15-0 and 20-7 victories.

It’s too early.

But those bats make you wonder.

A James Madison commitment, Tolle is hitting .680 with a whopping 1.320 slugging percentage, eight doubles, three triples and six home runs.

“I didn’t think I had that kind of power,” she said Wednesday afternoon, right before just missing on another home run when one of her doubles bounced off the top of the fence.

“She’s seeing everything right now,” Beck said.

Will she keep seeing it? Will the other .500 hitters keep finding the same success?

Why not, says Beck.

When Tolle went 0-for-3 in the team’s only loss to Plant, just a few hours after going 4-for-4 in a victory against Durant, he said he teased her about letting the team down.

“Nobody can do it all the time,” she told Beck.

He just looked at her and smiled.

“Yeah,” he said, “you can.”

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