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Rocky start for Hornets’ baseball

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After a long winter, this week finally sees the return of varsity baseball for high schools across the state. For Weeki Wachee (0-1) and Citrus High School (1-0), their seasons officially began on Tuesday night at Weeki Wachee. The Hornets did not exactly have the start they were looking for, though, as the visiting Hurricanes pummeled the home team 15-4 in the Hornets’ Nest.

Citrus had to be itching to get back on the diamond after a 16-10 campaign in 2021. The Hurricanes saw a late-season winning streak cut short in a 4-3 tournament loss to Eustis in extra innings. After losing a host of experienced players to graduation, the 2022 incarnation of Citrus baseball passed its first test.

The Green and Black are returning after a 9-14 record that saw the squad hit a late-season skid and suffer a playoff loss to South Sumter. For the Hornets, their fresh start will have to wait until a later game.

The Hurricanes drew first and second blood to gain a quick 2-0 advantage in the top of the first inning. Weeki Wachee held serve for as long as possible, though they failed to put points on the board during this span.

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The Hornets played a dangerous game as they found themselves in a pitcher’s duel for the next two innings. Unfortunately for the home team, they were unable to maintain that level of play for all seven innings on Tuesday.

Then Weeki Wachee blinked, and suddenly Citrus’ lead had ballooned to a daunting five runs in the top of the fourth. This was thanks to an error, a bunt, and a walk loading the bases for the visiting team. Another walk gave Citrus its first score of the frame. With the match slipping away, Weeki Wachee made a pitching change to Junior Pitcher Ethan Franklin in the hope that a fresh arm could help them avoid further damage. The Hornets did escape the inning despite a new set of loaded bases, but not before surrendering a pair of additional runs to bring the score to 5-0.

The bottom of the fourth was over in a flash as Citrus’ pitcher struck out a pair of Hornets and a pop fly was caught to bring on the fifth inning.

The bleeding continued with a savvy steal and eventual score by the Hurricanes. Weeki Wachee made the plays it needed to avoid further disaster, but the deficit now sat at six. Following another quick and uneventful outing for the Hornets’ offense, the Hurricanes were back up to the plate with a commanding lead.

Weeki Wachee vs. Citrus Feb. 22, 2022. Photo by Austyn Szempruch
Weeki Wachee vs. Citrus Feb. 22, 2022. Photo by Austyn Szempruch

The sixth stanza was where the game completely slipped through the home team’s grasp. The inning saw Citrus load up the bases and double its already sizable lead to 12 while the Hornets were forced to make a pair of pitching changes in the same inning.

The best part about the inning for the Hornets was that their bats began heating up. Weeki Wachee scored a trio of runs in the bottom of the sixth frame by Senior Nicholas Lucas, Senior Alex Roa, and Freshman Jack Strong to end the scoring drought. This would not be nearly enough, though, as the visitors answered back with three runs of their own to extend the distance between them and the home team. A late run by the Hornets in the seventh kept the home team from falling to the Hurricanes by an even dozen.

The Hornets and Hurricanes are set to face each other again on Friday. This time, the Green and Black will be traveling to Inverness to face the homebound Hurricanes and will attempt to even up the series record in game two.

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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