BROOKSVILLE — When Academy at the Lakes hired veteran coach Jerry English this past winter, it had no idea the program would show improvement immediately.
The Wildcats helped the former Land O’Lakes coach to his 12th district title while winning the school’s first district crown with a 4-2 victory over Hernando Christian in the Class 2A, District 4 championship.
Academy at the Lakes (13-4) defeated HCA for the third time this season in a series of hard-fought games. After getting hurt severely by the bat of USF commit Lauren Evans in the first two games, the Lions (15-6) pitched around the star slugger.
“Any time you beat a team twice, they are going to come back scratching the next time,” English said. “We were very disciplined and focused between the foul lines (Thursday).”
Evans accounted for eight of the nine runs scored against HCA in those losses, so she was walked in all three of her plate appearances Thursday. The Wildcats were able to get key contributions from other players, including Sydney Boynton, the starting pitcher. Boynton not only tossed a complete game with seven strikeouts and no walks, but she went 2-for-3 in the cleanup spot, knocking in Evans twice.
HCA hurler Ashley McKay was just as good on the mound, but miscues on defense put her in a difficult position. McKay’s 12 strikeouts gave her 193 for the season, but errors in the first and fifth gave the Wildcats the runs they needed.
“We couldn’t get that string of hits together that we needed,” HCA coach Mike Drummond said, “but we could have a fourth chance against this team.”
Academy at the Lakes has now reached the playoffs five seasons in a row, and HCA is in the midst of its ninth consecutive trip.
The Wildcats will have a bye in the quarterfinals, and the Lions will travel to Deltona to face Trinity Christian on Tuesday.
3A-8: Hurricanes hold on
Bishop McLaughlin earned its third consecutive district championship with a 4-3 win over Seffner Christian in the Class 3A, District 8 final Thursday night.
The Hurricanes (13-14) got up early with two first-inning RBIs by senior Andrea Niggebrugge and tacked on two more in the third by junior Marissa McGillis, who batted in only five runs all season entering the game.
Seffner Christian (15-8) made it interesting by scoring two in the sixth on a pair of base hits and adding one more in the seventh. The Crusaders loaded the bases in the final frame, but Bishop junior Megan Malone got out of the jam to preserve the win. The right-hander had one walk and struck out five in a complete game.
Matt Baker, Times staff writer