LECANTO — The first tour through the district certainly didn’t go as Citrus would have liked.
On Wednesday night the second turn through District 6A-6 got off to a good start. The Hurricanes jumped out to 6-0 lead early and staved off a late rally by host Lecanto to pull out a 6-4 victory.
It was the first district win of the season for Citrus (5-7, 1-5 6A-6), and the continuation of a four-game winning streak following a 1-7 start.
“We’re picking it up. We’re playing decent baseball,” Citrus head coach Brandon DeRespiris said. “We just got to continue doing what we’re doing. We’ve had solid pitching performances on the little win streak we’ve got. Just keep throwing strikes, making sure that the other team, whoever it is, has to hit their way on.
“We’re getting better approaches at the plate as the season goes on. But we need to make sure we do it for a complete game rather than just one or two innings. But overall, it’s definitely been getting a little bit better.”
The ’Canes, who lost to the Panthers (5-8, 2-4 6A-6) on March 5, 7-0, while being held to two hits had no such problems swinging the bats this time around.
Chance Yates led off the top of the second inning by blasting a solo home run just to left of dead center field. With two outs, the bottom three of the order came through as Zane Zacke singled and scored on Cody Cyr’s triple to the fence in right-center.
Mikey McSharry followed with a single up the middle and Citrus built a 3-0 advantage.
Connor Bishop had a single fall in front of the diving left fielder to bring home a run in the third, then Tim Flippen dropped a RBI single into shallow right that landed between three fielders.
Flippen drew a pickoff throw to first, and allowing Bishop to take off for the plate. The throw home had him beat, but the catcher dropped the ball allowing Bishop to slide across safely.
That’s all the runs the ’Canes would score, despite putting a man on third in each of the remaining four innings.
“We started out hot, swung the bats early,” DeRespiris said. “But we kind of shut it down towards the last four or five innings. We scored runs early and then kind of took our foot off the gas.”
Senior right-hander Nolan Bescher made that stand. He didn’t give up a hit until the bottom of the fourth, a two-run double off the bat of Nick Morales.
Bescher went 6 2/3 innings, getting lifted after a two-out single in the bottom of the seventh. He struck out seven, gave up four hits and walked just one, though he did hit two batters.
“Tonight I wanted to come out and really give the best we could to get a win,” Bescher said. “I just started pounding the zone. Lot of fastballs, mix it up with some curveballs; fast innings so I could last a long time and just go as long as I can really.
“I threw a lot of fastballs. Curveball wasn’t on as much as it usually is, but the fastballs were locating good. Change-up and curveball started coming around towards the end.”
When Bescher came out, Lecanto mounted a comeback. Chris Dirosa walked and Derrick Batson lined a single to right-center to drive in one. Morales was intentionally walked to load the bases and put the tying run on, and Luke Malmberg walked to cut the deficit to two.
With the tying run on second, Jalen Armstrong, the second reliever of the inning, got the final batter to look at a called third strike.
“Their pitcher (Bescher) did a good job of keeping us off-balance tonight,” Lecanto head coach David Logue said. “They swung the bats early in the game and they got up on us. I think our defense pretty much kept us in the game because they still had guys on base. I think we were infield-in three innings in a row and we stopped them from scoring.
“Pitcher bore down and gave us a shot to win. Can’t have a better situation than to tie it, to try to win it, and we just fell a little short tonight.”