INVERNESS — One player was the difference in Monday’s Citrus-Lecanto softball match-up: The Hurricanes’ Katelyn Parks.
These two teams first met this season March 5 at Lecanto, with the same pitchers for each in the circle, Parks and Aleyese Geier for the Panthers. Nothing went right for Parks on that night, a 13-1 loss in which seven Lecanto batters reached base after being hit by a pitch. There were also a half-dozen wild pitches, four of them scoring runs for the Panthers in their 10-run third inning.
But it was a different pitcher Lecanto faced last night. Parks stifled the Panthers on three hits, four walks and three hit batsmen to secure a 4-2 Citrus triumph.
The Hurricanes improve to 7-11 overall and finish 3-7 in 6A-6. Lecanto suffered its fourth-straight defeat, slipping to 9-11 overall, 2-6 in 6A-6.
"They played a better game than we did," Panthers’ coach Robert Dupler said. "They’re much improved from the first time we saw them, which I knew they would be.
"I thought KP (Parks) did a great job pitching tonight, she kept her team in the game the whole night, she battled every batter."
Still, as Dupler noted, "We had our chances with baserunners. We had 10 stranded runners — you can’t strand 10 runners."
The turning point came in the fourth inning, when Citrus ended a scoreless pitching duel by scoring all four of its runs.
The rally started with a double to left-center field by Maddie Moeckel. Anna Savoie followed with a grounder into the hole between short and third, beating Ember Oglesby’s throw to first to put runners at first and second.
With one out, Jordan Wharton singled in the game’s first run, the runners moving up to second and third on an errant throw home. A wild pitch delivered the game’s second run, and then Zarrie’ Washington walked with a runner at third. Washington rounded first and went halfway to second, trying to draw a throw. It came too late to get her, and Wharton raced home on the play to make it 3-0. An error on Lauran Meadow’s pop fly brought home the fourth run of the frame.
Lecanto got two runs back in the fifth, Sam Del Vecchio starting the inning with a walk and two stolen bases, putting her at third. Geier’s single knocked Del Vecchio in, and a walk and hit batsman then loaded the bases with one out. Becca Adams’ sacrifice bunt got the second run home.
But the Panthers could do no further damage against Parks, who had six strikeouts in improving her record to 4-10.
"In our sport, everything starts with the circle," Citrus coach Larry Bishop said. "Everything’s predicated on the circle. (Parks) made the adjustments, she’s worked to get where she is and we feel very comfortable now with her in the circle."
The ’Canes also took advantage of the opportunities afforded them in the fourth.
"I think they were aggressive, and we were aggressive on the base paths," Bishop added. "We executed very well defensively and offensively."
Cameron Trehy, Anna Savoie and Moeckel each had two hits in the game for Citrus.
Lecanto still has two district games remaining, against teams still in the hunt for the top spot in 6A-6, at Springstead on Wednesday and at home against Dunnellon on Thursday. Citrus hosts Leesburg at 6 p.m. tonight.