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Crystal River wants respect

Crystal River players say they aren't jealous, but you could understand if they were.

Even though the Pirates had posted a 9-2 record prior to Thursday's game at Citrus, they were unranked (with two total votes in this week's Class 3A poll) and had received little fanfare _ especially when compared to the school's No. 4 baseball team.

The baseball squad "deserves the attention, but we deserve more than we've gotten," freshman first baseman Ashley Bullion said.

She may have a point.

First-year coach Lanna Hough's club has been the county's most consistent team to date in what traditionally is a competitive region. And don't forget this: no area baseball or softball squad went further in the playoffs last season than the Pirates, who reached the regional final.

The baseball team was eliminated in the first round.

"The way I feel, (the baseball squad) is really an awesome team," junior shortstop Ashley Williams said. "But we're not behind them at all. We're right there with them."

Williams said this season's club is more competitive and cohesive than the 2001 squad, which finished 15-16 and lost to Hernando with a trip to the final four on the line.

"We're closer as a team," Williams said. "We want it more than last year."

HEY, BATTER, BATTER: Extra time in the batting cage is paying off for Citrus.

In recent weeks, several players have spent 1-3 hours a night working on their hitting at the home of assistant coach Al LePage, whose daughter, Alycia, is the Hurricanes' starting shortstop.

The regulars in the cage: catcher Whitney Gelin and infielders Brittney Doyle, Mettina Maggiore and Alycia LePage.

"Those four have been pretty faithful," Citrus coach Scott Waters said. "They've been hitting on a nightly basis, and that's after practice. They're really working on their technique, and it appears to be making a huge difference."

Especially for Gelin. In her two outings prior to Thursday's game against Crystal River, the junior was 5-for-6, including two doubles. Her average has risen from the low .200s to .343.

"We're working on getting all the girls in there," Waters said. "That's our plan, to work with everybody. You're limited to what you can do with 15 girls in 2{ hours of practice. When you look at our (stats), you can see it's paying off. The girls (in the cage) are the ones leading the team."

HEAVY HITTER: Citrus junior Ashley Worrell has four triples, the team's only home run, leads the Hurricanes with 11 RBIs and is batting .351. "She's a contact hitter," Waters said. "She has very few strikeouts, puts the ball in play and is really the only true opposite-field hitter we have."

ODDS AND ENDS: Lecanto catcher Jill Bandhauer has a .681 slugging percentage.

The team's next highest belongs to Dana Teller (.447).

_ KEITH NIEBUHR

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