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Two Hurricanes breaking .600 barrier

Two slap-happy Citrus players are sending their batting averages soaring, hitting .600 or better.

Senior outfielder Janea Thaler is hitting around .600, Citrus coach Butch Miller said, by slapping from the left side.

"I told her she couldn't hit right-handed any more," Miller joked. "She's never been a great hitter, but she has a lot of speed."

So Miler told Thaler to try the left side and was happily surprised by the results.

"She's made the transition well," Miller said. "She's a good contact person and can make things happen."

Thaler isn't even the best hitter for the Hurricanes. That is centerfielder Brittany Norris, who is hitting around .700, Miller said.

"She's farther along with her slapping," Miller said. "She can pop it up over heads and (the ball) drops before the outfield."

BIG GAME TONIGHT: Citrus (5-2 overall, 3-2 Class 4A, District 6) had a four-game winning streak snapped Friday in an 8-5 loss to Crystal River. The 'Canes netted district wins against North Marion, Lecanto and West Port and lost to Belleview, and Crystal River.

Dunnellon has taken an early district edge and had 10 hits in a victory over Crystal River and pitcher Cassidy Rash.

Citrus hosts the Tigers at 7 tonight.

"If we can beat Dunnellon we can control our destiny," Miller said.

If the 'Canes can upset the Tigers everyone will have at least one loss in the district, which will bode well for Citrus.

Although hitting has been a strong suit of Citrus, it is the 'Canes defense that has Miller raving.

"Our infield is outstanding," he said. "With Jen Baum on third base, Krystal Boardman at shortstop, Ashley Hoglund at second and first being shared by Brittany Eldrige, who has been batting .400, and Jillian Couillard."

PEP TALK: Sensing his young team needed a stern talk following a Feb. 17 loss to Santa Fe, Justin Wentworth gathered the Pirates in left field and delivered some advice.

"I asked, "What do you want this team to be?' " Wentworth said.

It was a rhetorical question, but it seemed to work. Crystal River (4-2) has won two straight since the talk, including Friday's victory over Citrus.

But Wentworth downplayed his motivational talents.

"It wasn't anything out of "Rudy," he said.

NICE START: For Seven Rivers Christian softball, which won only three games last season, the goal is to have fun.

But winning is nice too.

The Warriors defeated Bishop McLaughlin 21-6 last week, with the game ending early because of the mercy rule. The team is 1-2-1 this season, including two games - a loss and and a tie - against Springstead's junior varsity.

"It's going really well," coach Jackie Iwaniec said. "Everyone is improving, which is what we're looking for."

- DAWN REISS and BRIAN SUMERS, Times staff writers

ON THE WEB

Have a question for one of our prep writers? Want to check in on our writers' blog on the season? Nominate someone for Athlete of the Month? Contact the prep staff? For this and more, visit www.sptimes.com/highschoolsports/.

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