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This time Leopards protect lead

Hernando scored one unearned run against Class 3A, District 6 rival Crystal River on Friday. The Leopards got on the scoreboard in the first inning thanks to a two-base throwing error and a wild pitch.

Hernando starting pitcher Ashley Rogers and her defense made sure the slim lead held up for a 1-0 win as the Leopards avenged an earlier 3-2 loss at Crystal River and locked up the top seed in the 3A-6 tournament.

"We pitched very well, especially in clutch situations," Hernando coach Ernie Chatman said. "The key is you can pitch well, but if you don't play good defense it doesn't really matter."

Hernando (10-4, 6-1) didn't commit an error and stranded six Crystal River baserunners in the final three innings.

Rogers (7-3) gave up five hits and struck out six. Crystal River starting pitcher Cassie Pearson allowed five hits and struck out four.

In the first inning, Hernando's Nicole Young bunted down the third-base line. Crystal River's Melissa Coburn fielded the ball, but threw wide of first baseman Ashley Bullion. Young ended up on third and scored one batter later on a wild pitch.

"That's a toughie," Crystal River coach Lanna Hough said. "It's tough to take because we left a lot of runners on base."

Crystal River (9-3, 6-2) beat Hernando earlier this season by overcoming a 2-0 seventh-inning deficit.

On Friday, the Pirates had runners on second and third with two outs in the fifth and then loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth, but couldn't bring anyone home.

Rogers escaped by forcing Bullion to pop up to second in the fifth. She then forced Pearson to line out to first in the sixth.