OCALA — Central’s softball program has come a long way in recent years, but the top-seeded Bears won’t be advancing in the playoffs. The Bears were ousted 6-4 by Lecanto in the Class 6A, District 6 semifinals Tuesday night.
Amber Atkinson hit an inside-the-park home run in the fifth inning and smacked another homer in the seventh over the centerfield wall to give Lecanto (14-12, 5-4) a 6-2 lead.
Central (18-8, 6-3) tried to mount a furious comeback with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Katie McCarthy doubled, then Casey Vsetula singled and Hannah Charlwood walked to load the bases.
Alex Eisenhauer had an RBI walk to cut the deficit to 6-3. Rachelle McLean delivered an RBI single to make it 6-4, but Bree Martin fanned Central pitcher Kaeleen Kohler to end the game.
The relief pitching was excellent for the Panthers, as Amanda Myers came in and allowed only two hits and one walk in 3 1/3 innings.
The Bears’ only lead was 2-1 going into the fourth inning after back-to-back RBI singles by Charlwood and Eisenhauer.
“These girls have come a long way, going from five to six wins to 10 wins last year and 18 this year,” Central coach Tyson Ellis said. “We came up a little short, and mistakes early in the game cost us the game. They’re all tremendous girls, and I’m very proud of them.”
In the early semifinal, reigning district champion Springstead Eagles (11-11, 5-4) seemed poised to earn another playoff berth, with big 7-0 lead against No. 2 Citrus going into the bottom of the fifth.
The Hurricanes (16-9, 6-3), however, scored seven runs in the final three innings to tie the score and eventually triumphed in the bottom of the ninth when rightfielder Rachel Martin (2-for-4) with two RBIs scored on a wild pitch for the 8-7 walkoff victory.
Hailey Drawe was 4-for-5 for the third-seeded Eagles with an RBI triple. Louisa Disi was 2-for-4 with a two-run single in the fifth, which was followed by a Brooke Fischbach single for a 7-0 lead.
“We just ran out of gas,” Eagles coach Craig Swartout said.”
2A-4: HCA's playoff streak snapped at nine seasons
BROOKSVILLE — A nine-year run of state playoff appearances came to an end Tuesday night in the Class 2A, District 4 semifinal at Hernando Christian.
The Lions lost 9-1 to Seven Rivers Christian to set up a championship game Thursday between the Warriors and Academy at the Lakes.
HCA (13-6) seemed destined to extend its postseason run to 10 years. But star pitcher Ashley McKay sustained a knee injury a little less than a month ago and the Lions have gone 1-4 since.
“Ashley was throwing the ball so well, and with so many first-time players we really depended on her,” HCA coach Mike Drummond said. “It hurt our team more defensively and in confidence than it did on the mound.”
Seven Rivers (11-8), which was 2-14 a season ago, has been competitive behind the pitching of sophomore Tessa Kacer, who tossed a complete game.
The Lions stuck close for the first two innings, locked in a scoreless tie with the Warriors, but seven errors took their toll.
In the top of the third Seven Rivers put a four-spot on the scoreboard. Kim Iwaniec singled in Alexis King. Iwaniec and Allison Green attempted a double steal, and when the ball was thrown away by HCA pitcher Chelsea Lowe, Iwaniec scored. Milena Kacer singled in Green then Gabby Wright reached on an error, allowing Kacer to score.
In the first four innings, Lowe hit two batters and walked four more without a strikeout. The Lions’ starter was then forced into difficult situations because of Seven Rivers’ aggressive baserunning. The team had eight stolen bases early, including five from the top two spots in the order.
HCA got its run in the bottom of the sixth. After Holly Field tripled, Lowe knocked her in with a groundout RBI to shortstop.
“We’re definitely disappointed that this run ended,” Drummond said, “but it’s time to focus on the summer and next year.”
3A-8: Bishop stumbles
At Seffner Christian, the No. 2-seeded Crusaders (13-5) collected eight fifth-inning runs en route to a 10-5 triumph against No. 3 Bishop McLaughlin. SCA faces top-seeded Carrollwood Day in Thursday’s 5 p.m. final, where the Patriots will seek their first district title.
Staff writer Joey Knight and correspondent Derek J. LaRiviere contributed to this report.