DOVER — Braden River used yet another strong pitching performance from Courtney Mirabella to defeat Strawberry Crest 3-1 in the Class 4A region quarterfinals Wednesday night.
Great pitching outings are nothing new for Mirabella. After all, the nationally acclaimed sophomore averaged 15 strikeouts per game for the Pirates. But Mirabella began the game pitching not only good, but great.
Mirabella struck out the first five batters she faced and had a perfect game through six innings.
The Strawberry Crest defense, however, struggled out of the gate. After escaping the first inning in which Braden River stranded two base runners, the Chargers made a couple of key defensive mistakes in the second, which the Pirates quickly took advantage of.
Failing to get a couple of routine outs that should have ended the inning, Strawberry Crest surrendered the first run of the game on a single by Braden River’s Kenya Yancy.
Though the Chargers were facing a strong pitcher, Strawberry Crest wasn’t a team used to struggling at the plate. The Chargers scored 237 runs on the season.
But after suffering through five hitless innings, the Chargers’ bats came alive in the bottom of the sixth.
Maria Garcia got the first hit for Strawberry Crest with a lead-off double. Then, with two outs, standout Mia Fung singled down the rightfield line to score Garcia and even the score 1-all.
But Braden River didn’t take long to respond.
After starting off the seventh with a walk and a single, a wild pitch by Brianna Alonso allowed for both runners to advance in scoring position.
Then Yancy came up big again with a RBI double to make the score 2-1. Then with a runner on third, Braden River laid down a bunt but an errant throw to the plate allowed the Pirates to add another run.
The two-run lead was all Mirabella needed, as she struck out the side to end it, bringing her strikeout total to 11 for the game.
Despite the loss, Strawberry Crest has plenty to be proud about as it reflects back on this season. The Chargers won the school’s first district title in any sport. The team also will return a large portion of its roster, including Fung.
“We knew how good Strawberry Crest was offensively,” Braden River coach Doug Powell said. “We knew they’d start hitting a little bit, but we have Mia (Mirabella) and she’s been tough for us all year.”
Braden River faces Lakewood Ranch in Friday’s region semifinals.