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LECANTO — The Lecanto softball team looked to be in prime position to make its move in District 6A-6, carrying a 1-0 lead over visiting Central into the late stages. The Lady Panthers put a runner on third with two outs in the bottom of the sixth for a potential insurance run, but failed to bring it home.
Central had its only big inning of night in the top of the seventh, scoring twice on four hits to dramatically take the air out of Lecanto and hang on for a 2-1 district win over the Panthers on Tuesday night.
In a classic example of a pitchers’ duel, Central (10-4, 5-1 in district play) sent Kaeleen Koehler to the hill, who tossed a complete-game three-hit performance, giving up a lone unearned run with eight strikeouts and one walk. Koehler also did the most damage at the plate for the Lady Bears, going 3 for 4 with a triple and an RBI.
Lecanto (4-8, 1-5) starter Danielle Yant went the distance as well, shutting the Bears down until the fateful seventh inning, scattering 10 hits to go with two strikeouts and no walks.
“We didn’t hit the ball,” Lecanto head coach Robert Dupler said. “We play great defense, we pitch well, we just haven’t put a complete game together yet.”
The Panthers struck first in the third inning, as Sidney Holstein led off with a lined single to right field. Kelsie Lilley moved her to second with a sacrifice bunt, but after the putout at first, the Central infield threw the ball away in attempt to get Holstein, who came all the way around to score while the ball ended up in the outfield on the Bears’ miscue.
But Koehler fanned the next two Lecanto batters to end the inning. Koehler would go on to throw four 1-2-3 innings on the night.
The final frame followed a trend this year for Lecanto, who have lost all of their district games by one run.
Casey Vsetula began the Bears’ half of the seventh with a base hit just past shortstop. Koehler collected the key hit of the night with a triple all the way to the wall in right field to score Vsetula and tie the game. After Yant retired the next two batters, Katie McCarthy’s (2 for 4) RBI single to center gave the Bears the 2-1 lead, before Yant induced a pop up back to the mound to end the inning.
In the Panthers’ final at-bat, Koehler notched a pair of strikeouts to pitch around a two-out walk to Amber Hopkins to end it.
Dupler explained his expectations for the Panthers, saying they have a tendency to gradually get better as the season goes on, in hopes to see his team finally put the total package together.
“This is a team that gets better every day. They work hard every day,” Dupler said. “When it finally happens, I think of the great things we’ll do, but the question is will it happen.”
Paige Richards went 1 for 3 with two steals for Lecanto while Hopkins (1 for 2, walk) and Holstein collected the only hits for the Panthers.
Lecanto plays 6 p.m. Thursday at Citrus in another key district game.