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PLANT CITY — After 47 sky-flickering minutes Tuesday night, the lightning above Plant City Stadium went away. The Riverview Sharks never did.
Top-seeded Plant City (20-6) needed nine innings and a textbook suicide squeeze from Makensie McAvoy to eke out a 3-2 win against the fourth-seeded Sharks (15-11) in the Class 5A, District 8 tournament semifinals. The Raiders face No. 2 Durant (20-7) in Thursday’s title game.
“Geez man, that’s how they always are,” Raiders coach Heidi Kouveras said of the Sharks. “I expect nothing less from (Riverview coach Angela) Slater, really.”
McAvoy’s squeeze scored fleet sophomore Kristen Wyckoff, who reached on a bunt single, stole second and third, and fully atoned for a mental blunder in the top of the seventh that had tied the score.
The Raiders were an out from victory when Kayleen Boatwright hit a high infield popup with two runners on that Wyckoff and freshman Kacie Booth allowed to drop between them, scoring Victoria Horning from second base. Booth’s single in the sixth had given Plant City a 2-1 lead.
“Like I told the girls, mistakes happen but they came back,” Kouveras said. “I’m just glad that they came back and didn’t fail at the plate. … Right now I don’t think anybody’s really going to remember that they both dropped it.”
When play was halted by lightning, Plant City had loaded the bases with two out in the bottom of the fourth and the score tied at 1. When play resumed, Sharks ace Emily Gaitan forced Wyckoff to ground out to second, ending the threat.
Gaitan scattered six hits. Raiders counterpart Mackenzie Audas allowed five, fanning 13.
In the first semifinal, freshman Kelli Tidwell hit a two-run home run and Florida Southern signee Lauren Wolfe tossed a three-hitter, lifting the Cougars to a 2-1 triumph against Newsome and extending the most painful season of coach Matt Carter’s career.
Carter’s thickly braced left knee is slated for surgery May 10, three days before the start of the 5A state tournament in Clermont. At this stage, he’ll gladly accept wince over losses.
“If we keep winning I’ll just have to push it off another week,” he said.
With one out in the first, Cougars freshman Shannon Bell doubled off FSU signee Bailey Schinella with a shot that one-hopped over the leftfield fence. Tidwell then sent a 2-1 Schinella pitch over the same fence.
Wolfe handled the rest. Admittedly nervous early on, she walked three batters the first two innings, but allowed only one hit over the last five.