by Tim Gordon
In the pleasant weather of the early evening, two familiar rivals took to the field. The Springstead versus Nature Coast rivalry runs a broad gamut in various sports each year. This year in softball, the Nature Coast Lady Sharks have had the Springstead Lady Eagles’ number.
Saying that is not really fair to the intrepid Eagles. The Sharks have had just about everyone’s number this year. If you set aside a heartbreaking one-run loss to Lecanto followed by a disappointing tournament showing at the end of March, the Nature Coast Sharks have looked very good.
And that’s only considering wins and losses. There is hope in the nuance here. (More on that later.)
Springstead came into Tuesday’s game riding a three-game win streak with big and important wins against Weeki Wachee, Fivay, and West Port. These are ladies who can hit and run.
The visiting Eagles came to bat first and scored first—putting a run on the board in their half of the inning. However, they allowed 3 runs by the Sharks in the bottom of the first.
In the second, Springstead wasn’t able to manage any scoring. But there was hope. They held the Sharks to only one run in the second. It appeared that the Eagles were settling down on defense. Now they just needed to get those bats hot.
That is just what they did at the top of the third. After a lead-off out, Senior catcher, Raquel Camuglia came up and ripped a double. Next up, Sophomore Leanna’ Freeman clanked the fence in the left-center field gap—scoring Camuglia with a second straight double. Things were looking up.
Then it was Nature Coast that settled down—and they settled down in a BIG way. They closed out the top of three with two straight outs—holding Springstead to just a single run. Then the Sharks’ offense went to work.
It started with a lead-off single from Senior captain Jiena Carrera. One out later, Carrera would score from first on a double by Junior Harper Bunn. Then the floodgates opened. The Sharks would bat through the entire order (and then some) in the third inning putting nine runs on the board and sending a message to the Eagles. That message was, “We didn’t come to play. We came to win.”
In the fourth inning, Springstead put two more runs on the scoreboard. These scores were spurred on by back-to-back doubles—AGAIN! This time the doubles were executed by Freshmen Liberty Savarese and Sarah Tipton. However, it was too little, too late. Nature Coast would put up their own pair of runs on a two-out, two-run homer by Junior Dom Sekelsky in the bottom of the fourth. This gave the Sharks a 15-4 lead going into the final frame. The Eagles needed a miracle.
A miracle would not be forthcoming.
The Nature Coast Sharks defeated the Springstead Eagles 15-4 in a game that was anything but a foregone conclusion.
Following the game, Nature Coast Skipper, Jug Olmstead, noted that Springstead had made some big changes since their early-season loss to Nature Coast. They had moved some girls around in the field and won some big games recently. Those changes seemed to be paying positive dividends, and Coach Olmstead had noticed.
When asked how he prepared his team for this game, Olmstead said, “I told my girls that we’ve got to put them away early and not give them an opportunity to stay in the game.” He added, “If you let them hang around, they have a few people who can hit the ball and cause us some problems.”
Though the Sharks get to take an attractive 12-6 record into Friday’s game at Crystal River, they still have some consequential games in front of them, including Lecanto, Hernando, and South Sumter.
What’s needed for the Sharks to have success in this grueling finale to the regular season? “Consistency in the circle,” says Coach Olmstead. He noted that his pitchers are both in tenth grade and that with the added complications quarantines and cancellations in a Covid year, it has been challenging to build up the muscle memory for his young pitchers, needed for consistent success. “But,” Olmstead added, “If we get consistent in the circle and we don’t put people on base, we’ll be somebody to be reckoned with.”
The Skipper is right. This Sharks team is aggressive on offense and they don’t make mistakes on defense. So, if they can get the kind of performance that their coach would like to see from the pitcher’s circle, then you will find this Nature Coast team deep in the postseason.