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Sunday, Mar 29, 2015

Bucs spoil Koehler no-hitter, best Central, 1-0

TONY CASTRO Hernando Today correspondent

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Take two Alka-Seltzers and plop them into a glass of water.

The resonating sound will remind Central freshman southpaw Kaeleen Koehler of the last two Gulf batters she faced during the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday afternoon at Tom Varn Park.

Through six innings, the southpaw Koehler faced 19 batters, or one over the minimum, against the 13-3 Lady Buccaneers.

The Lady Bucs, who opened the season 10-0, were on the verge of getting no-hit before back-to-back dunkers by juniors Nikki Sedivy and Madison Morlan rescued the New Port Richey squad in its Leopard Slam II opener, 1-0. .

Sedivy entered the game hitting .400 before striking out looking and hitting into a double play.

With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, she dunked a ball near second base.

A subsequent wild pitch – Koehler’s lone errant offering – allowed Sedivy to scamper into second base.

On a 1-1 pitch, Morlan, who came into the game hitting .364, parachuted a ball in the Bermuda Triangle behind second base where no Lady Bear defender touched it.

As the ball hit the ground, Sedivy easily scored. Just like that, Koehler’s no-hit bid, shutout bid and terrific effort went “pffft.”

“I remember looking at third and coach was waving me home,” recalled the 17-year-old Sedivy on Morlan’s game-winning base knock. “To me, it was do or die; either I scored or I was dying trying.”

On the significance of the win, “We really needed this bad,” said Sedivy. “We’ve gone through a rough patch recently. We certainly didn’t want to give up. Hopefully, a win like this will get us started again.”

“All I was trying to do was put the ball in play,” recalled the 16-year-old Morlan, who benefitted from her base hit to improve to 13-3 on the hill. “In that situation you choke and poke. I knew that if I made contact Nikki would score.”

On the play’s significance, she added, “We needed to get back into this. We had lost our last two district games to Zephyrhills and Pasco. We needed a win in the worst way.”

On Koehler’s near no-no, “It’s not like she throws really hard,” described Morlan. “Normally, we hit pitches who throw much harder. She was throwing pitches we should have been hitting.”

From the home dugout, “I was just about to warm up our second pitcher,” noted veteran Lady Buccaneer skipper Rick Hohenthaner. “I thought Morlan had done a great job up to that point. Honestly, I was preparing for extra innings.

“Once Sedivy reached, my assistant coach asked about a courtesy runner. I went against his thinking. I wanted a seasoned base runner on. That proved tremendous when she bolted for second on a wild pitch,” recalled Hohenthaner. “Only a smart base runner would have done that in that situation. That turned out huge, especially when the next ball dropped in.”

On the play of the game, “Those two girls happen to be battery mates and best friends,” noted the veteran Gulf mentor. “Those two are the center of our team and I’m so happy for them.”

On Koehler’s near no-hitter, “The kid was nails today,” praised Hohenthaner. “She’s very heady. What she did to Rachel Gardner was something. Rachel was on fire (hitting .484) and she couldn’t get the ball out of the infield today.

“She’s (Koehler) got a bright future. Her beating Springstead last week was no fluke.”

Sixth-year Lady Bear skipper Tyson Ellis watched his team’s chance at its seventh straight win slip through its fingers.

The Lady Bears collected six hits off Morlan including a pair of safeties by catcher Alex Eisenhauer.

Central hurt its upset chances stranding eight runners on base including five left in scoring position.

Perhaps Central’s best scoring chance arrived in the sixth with one out as the Lady Bears loaded the sacks before Morlan enticed Whitney Roberts into a mound comebacker and Koehler flied out.

“We just couldn’t come up with a key hit. It was great pitcher’s duel,” identified Coach Ellis. “The thing that hurts the most was this was our first one-run loss.

“Overall, I thought we came off the break and played well defensively (converting 30-of-32 chances) and pitched outstanding against a great team,” said Ellis. “I told the girls this is the way playoff softball is. This could have been the district championship. They’ll need this type of experience to avoid it in the future.”

Ellis learned that because St. Petersburg Catholic failed to show up for the tourney, every team it was supposed to face received a forfeit win including the Lady Bears in Friday’s nightcap.

‘I’d rather we play than pick up a forfeit,” grumbled Coach Ellis. “I know the kids would rather play, too.”

Central (1-1 tourney, 12-5 overall) returns to action at 9:30 a.m. Saturday against Pasco head coach Lisa Herndon’s Lady Pirates, who also went 1-1 on Friday losing to Nature Coast 8-4 before trouncing Poinciana, 15-0.

Gulf 1, Central 0

123 456 7 R H E

CEN 000 000 0 – 0 6 2

GF 000 000 1 – 1 2 1

CEN – Koehler and Eisenhauer.

GF – Morlan and Sedivy.

W – Morlan (13-3). L – Koehler (7-5).

Records – Central (0-1 tourney; 11-5 overall), Gulf (1-0 tourney; 14-3 overall).

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