Numbers don’t tell the entire story of Schuler’s importance to Lecanto C.J. Risak / CITRUS CHRONICLE

What Lecanto softball coach Robert Dupler would like right about now is something he already has. Problem is, he doesn’t have enough.

As he put it after a disappointing 4-2 loss to Weeki Wachee last week, "I’ve said it before, if I had five Becca Schulers, I’d probably have three rings and be looking for a fourth one (in the last four years)."

It’s been that kind of season for Lecanto, and Schuler’s record in the circle shows it, too. After winning four of their first six games, the Panthers started doing things in streaks — lose two straight, win two straight, lose three straight, win three straight. Their current streak is a negative one, with the loss to Weeki Wachee their third in a row.

Schuler pitched in that loss to the Hornets, and she got off to a bad start, surrendering four first-inning runs. But she didn’t offer any excuses or try to dodge her responsibility.

"I struggled in my pitching in the first inning, I couldn’t get myself together, but in the third I did," she said.

What she never said her coach said for her.

"She came out tonight and her finger was hurting her, but she stayed in the game," Dupler said. "She worked it out. In the first inning we had some bad mistakes, but two through seven, she settled down and they didn’t score another run."

Mistakes have cost Lecanto, now 9-10, and it’s reflected in Schuler’s pitching statistics. She has a 4-6 record, but in 51 innings pitched she’s surrendered just 39 hits and 11 walks; only five of those hits have been for extra bases. Which is why her earned-run average is a county-best 1.09. She’s allowed 26 runs, but only seven have been earned — due to the Panthers’ 54 errors, an average of three a game.

"Overall, I’ve done pretty good, but I could be better," Schuler insisted. "I’m working as hard as I can for everyone, but I need to get better. We need to get better to win districts."

And that is always the initial goal, capturing the district title, then seeing how far you can take it from there. Regular-season records don’t mean much to Dupler (he refers to them as exhibition games).

Schuler is in her senior season, and she wants that postseason extension. In her pursuit of that goal, she will allow mistakes by everyone else, but she’s far less lenient with herself.

Asked what she could do better, she replied, "Stop (letting mistakes) get into my head. I just lose it once I get into my head, I’m letting it get to me."

Thing is, as Dupler noted, she contributes in so many ways. When Schuler isn’t pitching, Aleyese Geier is, with Schuler playing third base. Her bat is nearly as valuable as her pitching: She’s hitting .373 with two doubles, a triple and a homer, 12 runs batted in and 17 runs scored. Her average, RBI total and runs scored are second-best on the team.

"Offensively, she’s our No. 2 bat (in average), second in RBIs — she just rises to the occasion," Dupler said. "She has hits when you have to have hits, she advances runners when you have to advance runners."

As for her pitching, he said, "Her ERA is down, her strike-to-pitch count ratio is phenomenal — she’s just a competitor."

With the district tournament less than two weeks away, Schuler is confident the Panthers can find a way.

"We’re starting to get it together now, we’ve had some problems but we need to come together (and solve) them," she said.

Lecanto will be tested this week with three 6A-6 games: Citrus last night, at Springstead tonight and at home against Dunnellon on Thursday. Springstead and Dunnellon are tied with Crystal River for first place in the district.

Which makes this a perfect time for the Panthers to find their direction.

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