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Leopards’ Biggest Offensive Outburst of the Season

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BROOKSVILLE — While barely even putting the bat on the ball, the Hernando High baseball team managed to have its biggest offensive outburst of the season Tuesday night.

The Leopards, who have had a season-long problem with scoring runs, took advantage of an almost-incredible 15 walks and two hit batsmen on their way to a 13-2 victory against Lecanto in the second round of the Florida Farm Bureau Insurance Baseball Classic at Emerson Field. The game ended in the fifth inning due to the 10-run “mercy” rule.

With only two hits on the night, Hernando managed to breeze past its previous season high of nine runs in a game. The Leopards improved to 7-5 with tons of help from five different Lecanto pitchers, all of whom struggled to throw strikes.

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“We haven’t hit the ball well all season,” said Hernando coach Tim Sims. “We’ve tried everything from a bucket of chicken to burying a fungo bat to get our offense going.”

Sims was joking about those ancient baseball superstitions. But the Leopards have had a season in which they’re more than happy to take whatever gifts come their way and the Lecanto pitchers were more than generous.

Hernando put the game away in a bizarre bottom of the fourth inning that lasted more than an hour. In that frame, the Leopards scored seven runs without getting a single hit. They capitalized on eight walks, a hit batter and two wild pitches by four different Lecanto pitchers who couldn’t find the plate.

But the circumstances didn’t diminish the importance of a win for a team that has endured growing pains after losing 12 seniors from last year’s 25-win team.

“We’ve had a seesaw season,” said Sims, whose team lost to Mitchell in the opening round of the tournament on Monday. “We’ve been up and down. But this was a solid win for us. We continued to get good pitching and defense, but it was nice to put a lot of runs to go with that.”

Hernando’s hitters weren’t explosive, but they certainly were timely. Eric O’Dell and Austin Knierim had the only two Hernando hits of the game and they both came before the game got out of hand.

O’Dell, Hernando’s junior cleanup hitter and first baseman, put the Leopards on the scoreboard with a first-inning double that scored pinch-runner Mason Morgan, who was running for sophomore catcher Kaine Ellis, who had reached base on a fielder’s choice.

Hernando’s other key hit came from Knierim. The sophomore shortstop singled up the middle to score Braden Harmon, who had walked to lead off the third inning. Knierim’s RBI gave the Leopards a 3-2 lead and the floodgates opened after that. Hernando sent 10 batters to the plate and scored five runs in that inning by taking advantage five walks and one hit batter.

That, plus what happened in the outrageous fourth inning, was more than enough support for Hernando senior right-handed pitcher Colten Cloud, who has bounced back nicely from an early-season injury.

Cloud may not have the blazing fastball of last year’s ace Michael Savarese. But Cloud got the job done with relative ease against Lecanto, which fell to 5-8.

Cloud pitched all five innings to pick up the win. He allowed five hits, but allowed only two third-inning runs. Along the way, Cloud struck out eight. He also worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning to prevent Lecanto from scoring and extending the game.

“Colten Cloud’s pitching has been the best-kept baseball secret in this area,” Sims said. “He’s a gamer and he just goes out there and quietly gets the job done.”

Patrick Yasinskas
Patrick Yasinskas
I am a sportswriter with more than 30 years' experience covering sports on all levels. I started out covering high schools, but have covered the NFL since 1993. I have won numerous awards, covered more than 20 Super Bowls and have been a Pro Football Hall of Fame voter three times. I began my career covering high school sports in Hernando County, which remains near and dear to me, for The Tampa Tribune from 1990 through 1992.
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