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Citrus holds off Lecanto, 1-0

It was, for the most part, a fitting conclusion to a game of this nature: Citrus opening the door for a comeback with its biggest miscue of the game. And Lecanto repaying the favor with a base-running blunder that helped the Hurricanes salvage a 1-0 victory.

Leading 1-0 with two outs and a runner on first in the final inning of the Class 4A, District 6 softball championship, Citrus appeared to be on its way to the title when Lecanto's Erin Bailey hit an easy grounder back to Citrus pitcher Gina Reynolds. However, a badly overthrown ball to first changed all that in a hurry.

Attempting to put the tying run across, Lecanto's Nicole Robinson barreled around third, only to have the door abruptly slammed shut. Citrus rightfielder Colleen Leddy already had fielded the ball when Robinson made the turn at third, and her quick throw to catcher Laura Helt put a quick end to any thoughts of coming home. Helt calmly fielded the throw, chased Robinson back toward third, then flipped the ball to teammate Molly Keating, who tagged Robinson with the final out of the game.

"It ranks high because this is probably the last time I'll play them," said Reynolds, who allowed just four hits and struck out five and led her team to its second win in three tries over the Panthers. "It's always fun to win, but especially against a team like (Lecanto) and in a game like this."

The game remained scoreless through the first three innings, before the Hurricanes (22-8) pushed across their lone run in the fourth inning. A single from Brandi Farmer and a walk to Laura Helt set the table, and a wild-pitch moved both runners to second and third with two outs. Reynolds, who was perfect from the mound for the first three innings, drove home the game-winner with a hard hit line drive to leftfield.

Citrus wasn't able to add to its lead, but it wouldn't really matter. In one of her best performances to date (the overthrow aside), Reynolds kept the Panthers (23-4) guessing at every turn. Her best effort may have come in the bottom of the fourth when Lecanto loaded the bases with two outs, only to have Reynolds coax an easy grounder from Kristy Barkofski to end the threat.

5A-8: Ridgewood

cruises to title

LAND O'LAKES _ After watching her team score six runs in the sixth inning two nights before, Ridgewood coach Marlyn Bavetta had an idea.

"Let's do it again," Bavetta told the Rams.

Why not? The Rams led only 1-0, and Sickles had just left a runner stranded at second in the top of the inning. Another few runs would put the game away.

Three runs, to be exact. That's what top-seeded Ridgewood went on to score, wrapping up a 4-0 win and the championship at Land O'Lakes.

The Rams (18-11) host a regional game Tuesday against South Lake, a Class 4A state final four team last season before moving up to Class 5A. The first-year Gryphons will travel to Ocala Forest.

Against Gulf in the semifinals, Ridgewood blew open a 1-0 game with six runs. After the big sixth Friday night blew open another 1-0 game, Ridgewood ended up getting 12 of its 22 hits and scoring nine of its 10 runs in the inning during the tournament.

Sickles, which was looking for a sweep of the tournament's top three seeds, was not as adept at the plate as it has been. The Gryphons (17-6) lived off the opponents' mistakes in winning two games, but Ridgewood would not oblige. After a two-out double in the third, Brandy Krieg handled a hard-hit grounder easily for the third out. After an error and a wild pitch put a Gryphon runner at third with no outs in the fifth, Ridgewood's Amy Birch induced a bunt that failed to score the runner, a popout to second base and a ground out to shortstop.

"We made one mistake and did not let it monopolize to the next," Bavetta said. "We got the breaks tonight. But we worked very hard yesterday (practicing over three hours)."

In the decisive sixth inning, Bethann Blankenship made a nice play in the hole at short to snuff another Sickles rally. Then the Rams had theirs. Brittany Fischer walked and Krieg singled to start things. After a flyout, Tiffany Fischer singled to load the bases. Kerri Lane laid down a perfect bunt, beating it out and as Brittany Fischer scored, and two more runs scored when Vanessa Farmer ripped one past first base for a hit.

Birch closed out Sickles in the final inning, getting some help from Brittany Fischer, who made a diving, over-the-shoulder catch to end the game. Birch (8-3), a last-minute starter because of a sore knee, threw her second shutout of the tournament and allowed three hits while striking out six.

_ JOHN C. COTEY

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