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Monday, Mar 30, 2015
Hernando High

Living in the fast Lane

Hernando Today correspondent


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Last season, Hernando High's fleet senior center fielder Ashley Sims set the tone for her team.

The left-handed hitting Sims, who began her prep career slowly hitting .179, departed during commencement exercises after hitting .389.

In 97 career games across four seasons, Sims collected 110 hits and scored 87 runs.

Defensively, she was the glue of the Lady Leopard outfield and her deft closing speed allowed her to assist her teammates.

Sims' graduation was expected to create a huge void at the top of ninth-year skipper Kevin Bittinger's lineup card.

But junior catcher Megan Renee Lane has answered the bell.

Lane is the younger of two children to Brooksville's Scott and Tracy Lane.

The 5-foot-4, 129-pounder hasn't softened the blow of losing Sims - she's the only starter missing from last year's regional final team - by herself.

Lane has been nurtured on the area's softball diamonds.

Lane, who tied Courtney Riddle with a team-high five hits in this weekend's tournament at Cape Corral isn't exactly former major leaguer Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez behind the dish.

She's thrown out nine of the 21 runners attempting to steal bases against Lady Leopard pitching (43 percent).

By comparison, in Major League Baseball, any catcher throwing out over 30 percent of enemy base runners is considered outstanding.

She's even developed more and more confidence from her new wrinkle: throwing from her knees - a la Rodriguez.

Now, toss in the fact that Lane has caught every inning of every game so far this year. The word durable crops up.

Defensively, she's no slouch converting 180-of-182 chances (.989 fielding percentage). Only first sacker Darrian Hunter has more total chances (210) and more putouts (202) than Lane.

Consider that this year she switched from being a completely right-handed batter to an extremely threatening left-handed hitter.

As a right-handed stick, she hit .425 through two prep seasons.

Since switching, she enters districts this week hitting .571 behind 52 hits in 91 at-bats.

But move over Lou Brock; Lane's calling card is her God-given ability to run.

In her vast repertoire, her blazing speed separates her from so many other receivers.

So far on the base paths, Lane has succeeded on 58-of-61 stolen base attempts (95 percent). Over the weekend, she stole six bases in six attempts.

Through 80 career games, she's six runs away from breaking the Lady Leopards' record for career runs scored (113 held by Chrissy Hartley).

With another solid senior year, Lane's name and not Hartley's or Riddle's will be etched atop the majority of the Hernando High offensive softball records.

Despite leading the county in hitting for most of the season, Lane's fire continues to sizzle.

"I've done pretty well so far," said the 17-year-old Lane after HHS claimed its second tourney title this season in Lee County. "My goal coming into the season was to hit .600. Right now, I'm a little below that."

On her approach at the plate, "Going into districts, I feel confident," said Lane. "I've progressed so much in a few years."

Lane was quick to point out her steady growth in adapting to hitting from the left side.

"When I hit from the left side, I have a lot more options," she pointed out. "In travel ball, I hit way more. In high school ball, I slap more."

Lane says she's made a smooth transition from hitting second - behind Sims - to batting leadoff.

"My job is to get on base and set the table for everybody else," detailed Lane. "I feel like when I get on base and I put pressure on the other team's defense, I'm doing my job."

When anyone points out she's only a four-tool player, lacking power, she said, "I don't have to hit doubles and triples to be able to hurt the other team's pitcher.

"When I get to first base I'm looking to get to second and then third," she added.

Lane takes immense pride on her base-running abilities.

"It's facet of my game that's really important to me," pointed out Lane. "Every year I want to do more. In sports, you can't settle. I'm OK not getting a lot of runs batted in - that's not my job."

Like catchers, she does not take kindly to enemy runners attempting to steal.

"Actually, I take it pretty personal," she replied. "When you run on my pitcher, you're running on me. I just feel like I've got something to prove back there."

Lane believes it's more than a symbiotic relationship in catching perhaps the county's finest-ever pitcher, Riddle, for three seasons.

"Every year Courtney gets better and better," noted Lane. "We're real close, but not as close as, say, (third sacker) Danielle (Harvey) and I are. Dani and I are more like sisters."

Don't assume that Lane is not an exceptional student/athlete. She's carries an unweighted 3.6 grade point average and plans to study engineering in college.

If no better offer arrives, she'll sign with the Division I Mercer University Bears in Macon, Ga.

Lane believes the Lady Leopards are headed in the right direction. Before Saturday evening, no Bittinger-coached team had ever won more than 22 games.

HHS, however, at 23-2 entered the Class 5A, District 7 Tournament with an opening-round bye on Tuesday night.

"It was good to win a tournament before districts," emphasized Lane. "I kind of wish we would have played a little better competition."

On what she took away from the Lee County experience, "On defense, I threw out two runners from the knees," she said. "I'm getting better and better at that. It's something new.

"As far as the team, I have no concerns going into districts," said Lane. "Our whole approach is to win districts and regions starting on Wednesday."

By the numbers: Hernando's Megan Lane (2012-14)

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


2012 25 86 25 39 4 1 0 09 .453

2013 30 100 37 40 6 6 2 25 .400

2014 25 91 46 52 6 2 0 12 .571

TOTALS 80 277 108 131 16 9 2 46 .473

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