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Lee County buries Bainbridge in DH, begins hitting stride

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

LEESBURG -- Like magic numbers?

Well here's one that's full of magic and more. It's 51.

That's the number of hits Lee County's baseball team has bashed out this week. That's right, 51 hits in four games, including 23 in a doubleheader sweep against Bainbridge on Friday night.

"If we get 51 hits every four games we've got a chance,'' joked Lee County coach Rob Williams, whose team beat Bainbridge, 13-3, in five innings and then jumped on Chase Burnfin's big right arm as he tossed a three-hit, 8-0 shutout in the nightcap.

You can't blame Williams for smiling a bit. It's been that kind of season for Lee, which finally climbed over .500 with the sweep. But don't let that 10-8 overall record fool you.

These kids are hot, and they know it.

"It's been pretty rocking all year, but the last couple of games we've had good intensity,'' said Daniel Nichols, who is pretty intense at the plate. He went 3-for-4 with two doubles, and drove in three runs and scored three times in the opener. Then he went 1-for 2 with a pair of walks and scored a run in the nightcap. His RBI single in the fourth inning of Game 1 helped ignite a six-run inning, and then he doubled in Lee County's three-run fifth that put an end to the rout.

"Oh man,'' Nichols said of the Trojans' three-game winning streak. "I think we're coming together in the clutch. We're hitting in the clutch. We're pitching in the clutch and we're fielding in the clutch.''

He won't get any arguments from Bainbridge, which fell to 8-10 and 0-5 in the region.

"They took us to the woodshed,'' said Bainbridge coach Scott Miller, whose team is 0-4 in the three-team sub-region. "They can hit. Offensively, we just can't stay toe-to-toe with them.''

Bainbridge did grab an early lead in the opener when Blake Voyles hit a two-run homer in the first, and the Bearcats had a chance to blow the game open when they loaded the bases. But Cole Goodwin struck out Greg Lee to end the inning, and then gave up only an unearned run in the fourth the rest of the way.

"Cole didn't have his best stuff, but he battled,'' Williams said. "He wasn't going to give up. That's the way this team is. They never give up.''

He hung in there long enough for Lee County to come back. Nichols' two-run double in the third sparked a three-run inning and lifted Lee to a 4-2 lead -- a lead that came right after Williams had lit into his team.

"We did get going once we decided to start playing baseball in the fourth inning,'' Williams said. "The first three innings we didn't pitch, didn't field and didn't hit. It's unacceptable. I don't know if they were thinking about heading out to Panama City (for spring break) or what. But to their credit, they got it straightened out.''

Williams declined to share what was said in his dugout rant, but the players said afterward that he made his point loud and clear.

"He lit a fire under us,'' Nichols said.

The Lee kids want to stay hot. They've got five games left until the playoffs start, and suddenly this bumpy season has found a stretch run that's full of big bats and promise.

"It doesn't matter what your record is when you get to the playoffs. It's the team that's hot that counts,'' said Chase Patrick, who went 2-for-4, scored twice and had a big two-run double in the opener.

"This game is as big as it gets. Our record may not be where we want it to be but we're (4-0) in the sub-region, and our record can't be better than that.''

And the stretch run?

"We're solid right now,'' Patrick added. "We've been struggling all year, but we're coming together.''

And at the right time.

"At the beginning of the year, we were in a slump, but now we're hitting a lot better, and we have more confidence,'' said Pedro Cruz, who had a monster day, going 4-for-6, including a triple in Game 1 and two doubles in Game 2. He finished the day with three RBI.

Chase Griffin had a big RBI single to drive in Cruz, who doubled in the first inning of the nightcap, and Tanner Stone had some moments in Game 2 as well, driving in two runs with a triple and making a running, diving catch in right field

But Burnfin didn't need much help. He allowed just three singles, walked three and struck out seven. He was never in trouble. He was coming off a four-hit relief appearance Tuesday in which he gave up four hits and retired the final eight batters -- and 10 of the final 11 -- in an impressive outing against AAAAA Centennial.

"His last two times out he's been very effective,'' Williams said. "Our pitching coach Kevin Taylor has been working with his changeup and he's throwing it for strikes.''

Burnfin danced away from any praise.

"I just had great defense,'' he said of his first shutout of the season.

And he pitches for a team that has had 51 hits in four games.

Magic or not, that's a number they love in Lee County.