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TAMPA — The way vexed veteran coach Bobby Diez saw it, the Chamberlain Chiefs may as well have applied sunblock instead of stirrups and navigated the beach instead of the baselines Tuesday.
In a do-or-die region playoff game, the Chiefs (21-6) performed like they were on spring break.
“We just weren’t ready to play,” Diez said.
In a week when Hillsborough County students are on vacation, Chamberlain’s 2011 season got a permanent one. Two of the Chiefs’ three errors led to three unearned Venice runs, lifting the Indians (14-9) to a 4-3 victory. Venice plays at Sickles in Friday’s Class 5A region semifinals.
“They’re off their routine, it’s spring break and whatever, but if your heart is in it and this is the most important thing, you don’t play like that, I’m sorry,” Diez said. “They just weren’t ready to play.”
Venice struck first on Jordan Ray’s two-out single that scored Amber Yonker in the top of the first. Chamberlain tied the score in the bottom of the inning when Kelly Smith capped an 11-pitch at-bat with a double to score Ellen Scott.
Venice retook the lead in the fourth when pinch-runner Lisa Starkey scored from third on a misplayed routine pop to shallow rightfield. Niki Kovalsky’s RBI single two batters later made it 3-1.
Chamberlain tied the score in the bottom of the inning on Madison Gonzalez’s two-out double that scored two runs. Venice, however, notched the winner in the fifth when Yonker reached on a throwing error from the pitching circle to first base, and ultimately scored on Chelsea Lafountain’s sacrifice fly.
“I think we just took the team for granted, thought that we didn’t have to work as hard,” said Scott, who hit a walk-off homer in the District 9 final and went 3-for-3 Tuesday despite a broken right index finger. “I don’t think we came to play as we should have.”