TAMPA — Plant was one out from a monster upset when top-ranked Sarasota’s No. 9 hitter hacked a seemingly harmless dribbler back to the mound.
For the Panthers, it was downhill from there.
Though hitless through six innings, the Sailors rallied for a run each in the seventh and eighth to knock off the host Panthers 2-1 in 6A-9 region semifinal play Friday night.
Sarasota (26-2), winner of 21 straight and ranked seventh in the nation by MaxPreps, will play Tuesday for the right to go back to the state tournament. The Sailors lost in the state semifinals last season.
Plant senior Miranda Clark allowed just four Sarasota base runners over the first six innings (three on walks, the other on an error) and had a 1-0 lead heading into the top of the seventh, thanks to Samantha Stapp’s pinch-hit single in the Plant fifth.
But Jordan Boone broke up the no-hitter with a leadoff single and stood at third with the tying run, two out and Delaney Brooks at the plate. Brooks hit a slow roller back to Clark for what looked to be an easy final out — but the ball slipped between Clark’s legs, allowing Boone to score and knot the game at 1.
“Never expected that,” relieved Sailors coach Kelly Risley said.
“Maybe the moment got to (Clark), I don’t know,” Plant coach Melissa Sigmon said. “Obviously that’s the one that’s going to stick in everyone’s mind, but that’s not the reason we lost.”
The Sailors loaded the bases in the eighth on a pair of walks and a hit batter, then took the lead when Leah Feliciano reached on a fielder’s choice.
The Panthers (15-10) went down in order in the eighth, as Sarasota pitcher Sam Messer retired the final 11 batters she faced against relief pitcher Rose Yanger.