NEW PORT RICHEY — For the first time in three seasons, River Ridge pitcher Lakyn Shull is healthy for what the Royal Knights hope is a long postseason run.
And that has area batters feeling quite ill.
Since the beginning of the district tournament, Shull, a senior Furman commit, has been nearly unhittable. She threw a perfect game in the district opener against Nature Coast, shut out Hernando in the semifinals and struck out 13 to beat Lecanto in the final.
Facing Mitchell in Wednesday’s Class 4A region quarterfinal — a rematch of last year’s first-round playoff game — Shull continued her torrid play. She struck out the first eight batters and finished with 13 to upend the Mustangs 2-0.
For Shull, the shutout was her fifth in a row.
So where does the right-hander rate this performance among her all-time best starts?
“It’s top three, definitely,” Shull said. “It’s neat because they beat us out last year, and it’s good to have a little of that revenge coming back.”
Last year, Mitchell senior pitcher Courtney Radke no-hit the Royal Knights in a 3-0 Mustangs win. Shull nearly returned the favor Wednesday, limiting Mitchell (18-8) to three hits while not issuing any walks.
“Lakyn’s just throwing the ball really good,” Mitchell coach Scott Bisbe said. “She’s hitting her spots.”
Shull nearly struck out every Mitchell batter the first time through the lineup. Only Jordan Fowler, the Mustangs’ No. 9 hitter, was able to put the ball in play, grounding weakly to Shull, who made the easy put-out.
River Ridge (23-4) scored both of its runs in the third inning to give Shull all the support she would need. Jada Clemons, who went 2-for-3, smacked a stand-up double to rightfield with one out. Amber Jones followed with a hard-hit grounder down the third-base line that was too quick for third baseman Samantha Renzetti to glove, scoring Clemons.
With two outs, Ana Alberti lined a double to the wall in deep leftfield that just missed clearing the fence. The double, brought home Jones for a 2-0 lead.
And that was more than enough for Shull. Heather Muccino got the Mustangs’ first hit with a two-out bloop single to left in the fourth inning, but Shull struck out Cori Williams to end the inning. Renzetti reached on an infield single to open the fifth, but Kassidy Neptune, running for Renzetti, was stranded at third. Renzetti got Mitchell’s final hit with two outs in the seventh. Deriann Clifton grounded out to end the game.
“They were better than us last year, I guess we were better than them this year,” River Ridge coach Ernie Beck said. “That’s the way it goes.”