Lady Leopards deal, Lady Eagles reel
TONY CASTROSPRING HILL - Spring Break was officially ushered in Friday night with an uninspired rematch between red-hot Hernando and the suddenly reeling Springstead.
Published: March 23, 2013
Published: March 23, 2013
Springstead, top-heavy with sophomores and freshmen, began the week extending its season-high win skein to six games in a row behind Monday night’s come-from-behind 6-3 win at Citrus.
The rest of the four-game week went downhill.
After falling for the second time toSouth Sumter in a rain-shortened game Wednesday, 5-1 in five innings, Springstead stranded the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh in dropping a pulsating 4-3 Class 6A, District 6 tilt on Thursday to Central.
On Friday night, Hernando arrived with its minds somewhere else, committing a game-high four errors and permitting three Springstead unearned runs.
But Hernando junior right-hander Courtney Riddle, who committed two uncharacteristic throwing errors, helped her team overcome its own sloppy efforts.
At the plate, Riddle, who came in hitting a scorching .533, went 3-for-3 and was hit by a pitch, reaching base four times.
On the hill, Riddle’s 14th start produced her county-best 13th complete game. The 2012 All-County hurler (12-2) scattered four hits, three walks and one hit batsman while fanning a season-high 12 batters in the Lady Leopards’ 5-3 win.
Behind the Leopards’ (12-2 overall, 6-0 county) fifth straight series win over Springstead (10-6 overall, 3-3 county), Hernando clinched its second straight Hernando County championship and its fourth in eight seasons under skipper Kevin Bittinger.
More importantly, with the second annual, 16-team Leopard Bash looming a week away, Hernando enters with momentum. Behind a game-high eight hits off Springstead southpaw Louisa Disi (8-5), Hernando extended its win skein to 10 in a row.
Coincidentally, the last Hernando High team to piece together a 10-game or more win streak was the 2001 Lady Leopards under Ernie Chatman. That club finished 30-4 overall and was eliminated in the Class 3A state semifinals in Auburndale by Miami-Gulliver Prep, 9-1.
“Anyone who saw this game knows we weren’t focused. I thought Disi pitched a good game against us,” described Bittinger, who improved to 11-5 lifetime against Springstead. “Our team was focused on spring break, not on tonight’s game. We could use 100 different reasons, but none of them is an excuse for how we played.”
On what Bittinger shared with his club, “I told them if we learn to come to the ballpark focused then tonight was not a wasted effort. No offense to Springstead, but we’re going to face much tougher competition starting next week. We must do a better job on getting our heads on right before we arrive.”
The Lady Leopards’ biggest positives revolved around Riddle.
“Right now, she’s absolutely dialed-in at the plate. If you threw a beach ball up there she’d crush it,” praised Coach Bittinger. “The thing is she’s been hitting this way from the number four hole all season. Right now, she’s an extremely tough out.”
From the home dugout, Springstead’s veteran mentor Craig Swartout was not searching for excuses either.
“First of all, I have to tip my cap at the job Kevin (Bittinger) has done,” noted Swartout. “He’s one of the few coaches who squeeze the last ounce of ability from his players.
“As far as us, there comes a time for every young team has to start making routine catches on fly balls and routine throws in the infield. That time has come,” he said. “We really only have two veterans on this team, the majority are first-year varsity players. As a whole, this group doesn’t understand what it takes to play here and the sacrifices necessary to wear a varsity uniform.
“What I liked most? That again we gave ourselves a chance. We just didn’t capitalize,” emphasized Swartout despite dipping to 8-14 lifetime against Hernando. “What did we leave 10 runners on base? That’s a lot of wasted scoring opportunities against a tremendous team.”
On where the Lady Eagles go from here, “This has been a tough week mentally and physically for us. The break really couldn’t have come at a better time,” noted Swartout. “This will give our girls a chance to get away and refocus. The kids need some time off. We got outhustled and outcoached tonight. We haven’t dropped three in a row in a while (not since March 2009’s seven-game losing streak).
“Hopefully, we’ll come back ready for the stretch drive.”
With two outs, Riddle singled to right. Courtesy runner Nikki Patrick was inserted. On a 1-2 pitch to junior Summer Solovitch, Bittinger sent Patrick. On a perfectly executed run and hit, Solovitch’s RBI single to right allowed the fleet-footed Patrick to score, 1-0.
The hosts countered with a pair of unearned runs to take the lead in the fourth.
Disi reached on a walk before 2012 All-County catcher Brooke Fischbach reached on the first of two Lady Leopard errors.
Sarah Kelly then grounded to third sacker Danielle Harvey, whose perfect relay to the plate was not in time to deny plating Disi.
After Kelli Wall sacrificed both runners, Morgan Selby routinely grounded to shortstop Tana McDaniel. But McDaniel muffed the ball permitting Fischbach to score, 2-1.
Shelbi Ard, who reached three times on a single and two free passes, coaxed a walk to load the sacks. Springstead missed a chance to tack on some runs when Riddle fanned Britny Desmond (.447) for the final out.
Hernando regained the lead with three runs in the fifth. Riddle’s two-run double to right-center plated Ashley Sims and McDaniel.
With Patrick on board as a courtesy runner, Solovitch reached on an error and promptly stole second. Harvey grounded into a fielder’s choice plating Patrick, 4-2.
SHS retaliated in the fifth.
Drawe, who went 3-for-4 against Central, collected her second hit of the night – a double to lead off the bottom of the fifth.
A hit batsman and a single by Kelly loaded the sacks again. Wall hit a comebacker to Riddle, who misfired at point-blank range to catcher Megan Lane, allowing Drawe to score, 4-3.
Riddle extricated herself from the bases-loaded jam by retiring the next two batters.
Hernando added an insurance run in the seventh. After back-to-back singles by McDaniel and Riddle, Solovitch earned her second run batted in on a groundout.
From the Lady Leopards’ prospective, other than the win, there was little to cheer about.
“Our defense (stunk),” pointed out the 17-year-old McDaniel after Hernando converted 28-of- 32 chances compared to Springstead’s 31-of-33. “We weren’t focused from the beginning. I think we thought because it was Springstead we could just come in here and take it easy.
“What saved us was as the game went along we came together as a team.”
“We need to come to the ballpark more focused,” added the 16-year-old Solovitch. “We learned we need to play every game hard. I was real proud of Courtney. She always does a great job of keeping her composure – no matter what happens.”
“I can’t pitch and we can’t afford to play defense the way we played tonight,” explained the 16-year-old Riddle. “From the first pitch on our heads weren’t into it.
“We weren’t yelling at each other,” noted Riddle. “We just didn’t pick each other up like we could.”
Riddle did smile when asked about her current hitting.
“I feel really good swinging the bat right now. I feel like I’m dialed-in, but I’m like the rest of the team – there’s always room for improvement.”
Hernando 5, Springstead 3
123 456 7 R H E
HER 001 030 1 – 5 8 4
SPG 000 210 0 – 3 4 2
HER – Riddle and Lane.
SPG – Disi and Fischbach.
W – Riddle (12-2). L – Disi (8-5).
2B – HER: Riddle, Canon; SPG: Drawe.
Records – Hernando (6-0 county, 12-2 overall), Springstead (3-3 county, 10-6 overall).
Past Hernando County Fast-Pitch Softball Champions (2002-13)
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
YEAR SCHOOL W L .PCT HEAD COACH
2002 Brooksville-Central 3 1 .750 Benny Martinez
2003 Spring Hill-Springstead 4 0 1.000 Craig Swartout
2004 Brooksville-Hernando 3 1 .750 Doug Rogers
2005 Brooksville-Hernando 5 1 .833 Doug Rogers
2006 Brooksville-Hernando 6 0 1.000 Kevin Bittinger
2007 Brooksville-Hernando 6 0 1.000 Kevin Bittinger
2008 Brooksville-NCT 6 0 1.000 Mettina Maggiore
2009 Brooksville-NCT 5 0 1.000 Mettina Couet
2010 Spring Hill-Springstead 4 0 1.000 Craig Swartout
2011 Spring Hill-Springstead 5 1 .833 Craig Swartout
2012 Brooksville-Hernando 6 0 1.000 Kevin Bittinger
2013 Brooksville-Hernando 6 0 1.000 Kevin Bittinger