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Leopards enter Bears den with trepidation

Going into today's district game against city rival Central, Hernando softball coach Ernie Chatman isn't quite sure what to expect when that first pitch is thrown.

Despite the fact the schools are only about 15 miles apart and play in the same conference and district, Chatman has a bunch of questions.

"I heard they played (defending state champion) Lecanto to within one run and they lost to a good Citrus team 3-0," Chatman said. "It was 3-0 when we played them in that first game at Tom Varn Park.

"Those scores indicate to me they are a very competitive team. I anticipate a tough game. I think they are capable of beating anybody in the district."

So that leaves Chatman and his 6-3 Leopards to think about the last time they played and go from there.

"I remember it was a well-pitched game on both sides, not a lot of hits for either team," Chatman said. "We were lucky and got the base hits to put people in position. Other than that, I don't really remember how the game went."

Chatman said it was the pitching by Jennifer Pape and Central's ability to stay close throughout the game that impressed his players the most.

Chances are Pape, a freshman, will be back on the mound for Central this afternoon at 4 when the teams meet at Central. Casey Ellis will pitch for Hernando.

"We're going to see how much they've improved," Chatman said. "They earned the respect of some of our players, especially since they're so young. That freshman pitcher did a heck of a job."

One thing Central is going to have to worry about is the heart of Hernando's batting order.

Chatman said Brittany Bell is close to .400 in average, Ellis is batting around .350, and Audrey Friedland checks in at about .340.

"That's definitely where we produce most of our runs," Chatman said. "Eventually we'd like to move Brittany to leadoff so we can use her speed. That's our game: get on base, steal bases, hit and run, create mistakes and then score off of them."

Or, take whatever Central throws at him and turn it into a way to score runs and take home the victory.

"Basically that's what we have to do," he said. "First this is a conference game, second this is a district game and we're worried about our seed in the district tournament. This is important to us, especially since it's a district game and affects the district seeds."

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