Just when Central coach Benny Martinez thought things were starting to come together for his winless team, an automobile accident gummed up the works.
A car driven by Vanessa Volkes was hit from behind on March 6, sidelining the senior third baseman and cleanup hitter for that night's game against Lecanto and the next day's matchup with Land O'Lakes.
Neck stiffness has prevented Volkes from practicing since the accident. She was expected to miss games against Tampa Catholic on Tuesday, Leesburg on Thursday and Land O'Lakes on Friday.
Martinez hopes to have her back for next week's games against Crystal River and Springstead.
Through four games, Volkes and another first-year player, rightfielder Julie Schneidmiller, were among Central's top fielders and leading hitters.
"They're very coachable," Martinez said. "They listen well and use what they're given, and they've just absolutely turned on."
Volkes moved from New York as a junior but was ineligible to play last season because she missed too much class time when one of her grandparents died. A line-drive hitter, she is batting .667 with two doubles and two RBIs and can play third base or shortstop.
Schneidmiller, a transfer from Hernando Christian Academy, started the season at short before moving to the outfield. Her speed allows her to chase down balls in the gaps, while her strong on-base (.500) and slugging (.667) percentages earned her the No. 2 spot in the order.
Volkes and Schneidmiller join first baseman Liz Wallace, second baseman Val Long, shortstop Lindsey Herr, leftfielder Danielle Brown, centerfielder Brittany Hasty, catcher Samantha Downing and pitcher Stephanie Owen as starters.
"This team is going to start jelling," Martinez said.
FLYING HIGH: Springstead has not allowed a run in three games.
After pitching no-hitters over South Sumter and Clermont East Ridge to open the season, Emily Eicholtz hurled a two-hit shutout in a 1-0 win over Hudson on Thursday.
The Cobras advanced the potential tying run to third base in the seventh inning, but Eicholtz got the next batter to hit into a groundout to end the game.
"Emily beared down and really got after it," coach Craig Swartout said. "She was tenacious. When she really needs to get herself out of a jam, it seems like she throws the right pitch at the right time."
Third baseman Vanessa Zeigler made a couple of outstanding plays behind Eicholtz and drove in the game's only run with a fifth-inning double. Megan Allen reached on a walk, moved to second on a bunt and scored on Zeigler's hit down the third-base line.
It was one of five hits for the Eagles (3-0), including two by Heather Benson.
"For whatever reason, we weren't able to hit the ball," Swartout said. "The pitcher threw strikes, but she didn't throw as hard as we were accustomed to, which threw off our timing a little bit."
PLAYING CATCH-UP: Central trailed Land O'Lakes 6-2 in the fourth inning on March 7 when the game was postponed because of rain. It will resume at 6 p.m. on Friday, before a scheduled game between the Bears and Gators.
Springstead has rescheduled one of its three postponed games. The Eagles will play at Land O'Lakes on March 27. No makeup dates have been set for the Crystal River and East Ridge games.
Hernando's March 4 game against Williston was moved to April 17. There is no makeup date for the Crystal River game, which also was postponed.
_ FRANK PASTOR