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District softball roundup: Durant routs Plant City for 7A-7 title

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Fri. April 18, 2014 | Brandon Wright

District softball roundup: Durant routs Plant City for 7A-7 title

TAMPA — The old adage states it’s tough to beat a team three times in one season. Thursday, it proved spot on.

Durant’s bats stayed hot as the No. 3 seed avenged a pair of regular-season losses and defeated top-seeded Plant City 11-0 in the Class 7A, District 7 final shortened to five innings due to the run rule.

“I know I didn’t expect 11-0,” said Sloan Hammons, the Cougars’ freshman righty who surrendered just two singles, struck out four and did not allow a runner past second. “But the way we were playing, it seemed like (Plant City) kind of gave up once we started hitting and hitting.”

It was the Cougars’ third straight district title.

“We’ve been working real hard on adjustments, and the kids did a good job of that tonight,” Durant coach Matt Carter said. “Trust me. We didn’t lose the first two on purpose.”

After collecting 16 hits in Wednesday’s 10-6 win against Strawberry Crest, Durant (18-8) had 15 against Plant City (18-6).

“I think we were still kind of high from (the Strawberry Crest) game,” Hammons said. “And we brought that energy.”

Leading 3-0, the Cougars batted around and scored four runs in the third and fourth. Shannon Bell finished a home run short of the cycle, going 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs. Selena Bezares went 3-for-3 with a two-run double and three runs scored. And Caylin Delones and Morgan Slater, the No. 8 and 9 batters, respectively, collected a pair of hits.

“Everything clicked,” Carter said. “The hitting was there. The pitching was there, and the defense was there. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.”

8A-7: More than four and a half hours after the first pitch, 13 innings and two rain delays later, Alonso edged Bloomingdale 7-6 late Thursday for the title at Riverview.

Shortly after 11 p.m., umpires got together and informed the public address announcer that a Hillsborough County curfew would not permit an inning to begin after the 12th inning was played out. But Riverview athletic director Kevin Massena said county AD Lannes Robinson gave approval to continue playing until a winner was decided.

“We made it interesting with the weather,” Alonso coach Robin Kopp said. “Both teams had a disadvantage, but we moved forward the entire game.”

Alonso (21-4) snapped a tie at 1 with a run in the top of the seventh, but Bloomingdale tied it in the bottom of that inning. In the ninth, an inning that lasted more than an hour due in part to the first rain delay, the Ravens took a 6-2 lead, but the Bulls matched that four-run output in their half.

Four more innings were played until Alonso’s Victoria Perri drew a leadoff walk in the 13th and scored on Elly Pillers’ sacrifice fly. Bloomingdale threatened again when Darby Bernaldo singled with one out, but a 1-6-3 double-play featuring pitcher Kayla Maxwell, shortstop Jessica Warren and first baseman Allison Carroll clinched it.

Maxwell (16-3) allowed 10 hits with 12 strikeouts and six walks in a complete-game effort. Going the distance for Bloomingdale was ace Lace Smith (19-2), who allowed nine hits, fanned 21 and walked six.

A 15-minute rain delay interrupted the ninth, which began with Pillers’ three-run double highlighting the Ravens’ four-run inning. But Bloomingdale sent nine batters to the plate in that frame, scoring three unearned runs and another on Taylor Ingman’s RBI single.

In the seventh, Megan Wetzel gave Alonso a 2-1 lead with a run-scoring single. Bloomingdale tied it when Sammie Selden walked scored on an infield error.

The wet conditions led for some sloppy play as both teams combined for 13 errors.

7A-8: Gaither and Steinbrenner brought more than good pitching to the semifinals. They added lots of drama.

Top-seeded and host Gaither survived a seventh-inning rally by Wiregrass Ranch — the tying run at third — for a 4-3 victory. Earlier, No. 2 Steinbrenner snapped a scoreless tie with three unearned runs in the sixth and Kellee Ramsey threw a complete-game five-hitter in a 3-0 win against Freedom.

The final is at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Up 4-0, Gaither (15-5) appeared to be on cruise control. Sammi Grat was working on a five-hit shutout and had retired the first two batters in the seventh. She then got Strike 3 on Megan Miller. But the ball eluded the catcher, and Miller reached first.

The Bulls (13-12) loaded the bases on an error and single. Samantha Hiley followed with a three-run double and reached third on a throwing error on the play. But Grat induced a ground ball from the next batter to end the game.

“That was intensity in the last inning, wasn’t it?” Gaither coach Jerry Murray said. “I said three things to my team: ‘Focused all game, intensity all game and perseverance until the end.’ That’s what made us a winner.”

Alex Robbins’ two-run double in the sixth put Gaither up 4-0.

“It’s not easy when you wait until late to try to come back,” Wiregrass Ranch coach Eddie Melendez said.

In the first game, Ramsey was locked in a pitchers’ duel with Freedom’s Grace Street until the sixth, when Steinbrenner (13-8) took advantage of three errors by Freedom (12-10). Erica Serafini, who had the Warriors’ only two hits, singled home Karsen Barnes with two outs for a 1-0 lead. The other two runs scored on errors.

“I’ve been having a rough time at the plate,” Serafini said. “I was thinking I need to hit the ball no matter what. (Street) plays on my travel ball team, and I know where she pitches.”

Steinbrenner turned double plays in the third and sixth.

“We haven’t won our first game in district in a couple years, so this is a good win for us,” Steinbrenner coach Colleen Sanders said. “I think this is going to build our team confidence.”

6A-9: As far as 10-year coach Eve Soto-Suarez knows, Jefferson went into Thursday’s final having never won a district championship. But against Chamberlain, Jefferson took a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning and pitcher Nikki Lopez held on to deliver the first title in school history.

The Chiefs (20-3, 13-2) scored their only run in the third inning before two hits and a walk loaded the bases for the Dragons (14-6, 13-2) in the fourth. That’s when Justine Fernandez hit a two-run double, which gave Jefferson a lead it never relinquished.

The regular season was challenging, Soto-Suarez said, but a district championship was the perfect way to end it. And for her winning pitcher, the finale was even sweeter.

“Today is Nikki Lopez’s 18th birthday,” Soto-Suarez said. “It was her birthday gift.”

5A-9: Robinson won its second district title in three years by beating Middleton 18-3 in four innings.

The Tigers (5-15, 3-3) were fresh off a 19-11 win against Spoto in Wednesday’s semifinal, with which it earned the first region berth in school history. That momentum appeared to continue in the district final when the Tigers took a 3-1 lead against the Knights (11-9, 5-0) in the second inning.

Robinson, though, scored nine in the third and seven in the fourth to shut Middleton down.

Samantha Conlan was the winning pitcher for the Knights, who recorded 17 hits to Middleton’s one. Conlan also had a pair of doubles, while Brandea’ Rafferty and Amanda Crosby added one each.

3A-7: Carrollwood Day was one of just two schools able to top Seffner Christian in the regular season. And in the biggest game to date, the Patriots did it once again, beating the Crusaders 4-1 to win their second straight district title.

The Patriots (14-7, 8-0) were led by Emma Frost, who finished 4-for-4, and Amanda Rose, who had a pair of RBIs. Savannah Bennett also helped out by laying down a bunt that coach Chuck Fest said blew the game open.

Carrollwood Day has now gone two straight seasons without losing a district game. It’s an accomplishment Fest said has come about due to tough non-district competition.

“Our record overall doesn’t look all that impressive,” he said. “But 20 straight wins in the district in two years, I think that makes us a better team all the way around.”

2A-7: Academy at the Lakes’ Alexis Kilfoyl had a lot to prove in the final against Cambridge Christian. In the teams’ previous meeting, April 3, the Wildcats’ only pitcher was worn out after a travel tournament the previous weekend and struggled, walking 10 in a 3-1 loss.

Thursday, though, that was a distant memory. The seventh-grader took a no-hitter into the sixth and struck out a season-high 12 in visiting AATL’s 5-1 victory over the Lancers that clinched their third straight title.

“She had her emotions under control,” Wildcats coach Jerry English said. “She had a little rest, and she … pitched a great game.”

AATL’s offense backed Kilfoyl’s gem against Cambridge sophomore Alea White. USF oral commit Lauren Evans smashed a triple to right in the first and scored on a single by Rebecca Hannah to give the Wildcats (14-3) an early lead.

Skyler Boynton scored on a wild pitch in the third, and AATL added a run in the fourth on a fielding error — one of six by Cambridge (15-5) — to make it 3-0.

Hannah capped the scoring in the sixth with a hit to center that drove in Evans (intentional walk) and Sierra Barr-Benjamin (single).

Megan Rygiel scored the Lancers’ lone run on a single by White in the sixth. But Kilfoyl struck out three of her final six batters.

“We just had to keep the pressure on them,” English said, “take it a little bit at a time.”

Times staff writer Kelly Parsons and correspondents Steve Lee, Don Jensen and Jeff Odom contributed to this report.

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