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PINELLAS PARK — A year after Pinellas Park’s all-time strikeout leader, Sara Nevins, put the Patriots on her back with her stellar pitching, Taylor Klinesmith is doing the same this season with her bat.
Klinesmith was instrumental in helping the Patriots tie Seminole in the sixth inning of Tuesday’s Class 5A region quarterfinal, then proved heroic in the seventh with a walk-off RBI single that scored Conner Harris for a 2-1 victory.
“We never thought we were out of it,” said Klinesmith, who went 2-for-4 with a run scored. “We stayed positive and were just determined to make something happen.”
The Patriots (19-8) had hit the ball hard against Seminole starter Kristy Fudge, but most of their connections landed in the Warhawks’ mitts.
Pinellas Park, which had beaten Seminole (14-9) last season in the region semifinals for its first-ever playoff victory, trailed 1-0 after Fudge scored on a single by Jennie Sittloh in the third inning.
“Just stay positive and keep taking patient at-bats,” Pinellas Park coach Shane DeMartino told the team heading into the sixth inning.
The strategy worked as Klinesmith smacked a single to center on a 3-2 count and one out. After Shelby Nowakowski entered to pinch run for Klinesmith, Sammy Martin worked the count to 3-2 before hitting a single to right, then Tatum McDowell and Courtney Lonardo reached base on consecutive walks to bring in the tying run.
In the seventh, Harris reached on a single to center, then came all the way around from first base on Klinesmith’s single to right center as Harris just barely beat the throw home.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Patriots starting pitcher Jordan Bennett, who allowed seven hits with three strikeouts in her 10th complete game of the season.
“I was just doing whatever I could to keep us in the game. I knew our bats would eventually create some magic.”