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Pirates put ball in play for big win

Jere DeFoor's words probably never rang truer than they did after his Crystal River baseball team knocked off Lecanto Wednesday night.

For the past two months, DeFoor has expounded on the benefits of fundamentals to his Pirates, and it appears they are finally listening. The 7-1 win over Lecanto offered ample proof that the coach's words hold some truth.

"We played better defense, we got good pitching from (Rob) Pochis and we put the ball in play," DeFoor said. "That's something I've wanted the kids to do more. We put the ball in play and made them play defense."

Granted, Lecanto pitcher Andy Castorina matched Pochis' effort, also hurling a three-hitter, but the difference for the Pirates was defense. They made the plays and the Panthers didn't.

Lecanto committed six errors, helping the Pirates' cause with four unearned runs, all of them in the sixth inning with Crystal River holding a 2-1 lead.

Still, Lecanto didn't give Crystal River all its runs. Leadoff hitter Bruce Bellamy (.360 batting average) reached base twice _ on an error and a single _ stealing a base and scoring each time.

And for the first time in a while, the Pirates didn't give away any runs. Lecanto earned its only run in the fourth when pinch-hitter Scott Hartman doubled home Steve Fleck. Even more impressive, and a relieving sight for DeFoor, was that the Pirates committed just one error and that didn't even hurt, coming on a fly ball in the final inning with the Pirates holding a 7-1 lead.

"I hope this is something we can build on," DeFoor said. "I'm hoping things just get better and that we can play that well. We need to make the routine plays. We need to field the ground balls and make the plays."

Lecanto, meanwhile, seems to be going in the opposite direction. The Panthers entered Wednesday's game with high hopes, yet again gave the game away in a fashion eerily similar to last Friday's 12-3 loss to Chiefland, in which they also committed six errors.

CITRUS: Hurricanes coach Dale Walker tells a similar tale. His team isn't hitting the ball well, the pitching has been average at best, and the fielding has cost Citrus its share of games.

Which is why Walker is resorting to that old coach's cliche and "taking each game one at a time."

Walker really has no other choice. He is simply looking for a little improvement. A little today, a little more tomorrow . . .

"We've got to cut down on our strikeouts," Walker said. "We're striking out way too much. But the defense has been getting better the last four or five games; we just need to work on our bats."

Citrus has done fairly well against local competition, defeating Leesburg and Dunnellon while losing close contests with Lecanto and Hernando, but, like many other Citrus teams, has been crushed by its larger, stronger, Class 5A competition in district play.

"We've been having trouble with those guys," Walker said. "We've done pretty well against teams from around here, but when facing the real good teams, our pitching has been hit pretty hard."