PALM HARBOR — If Palm Harbor University keeps playing like it did Thursday in the Class 8A, District 8 final against East Lake, the Hurricanes could put one last championship ring on coach Chuck Poetter’s finger.
PHU exploded for 17 hits, including two home runs by Samantha McCloskey, in a 13-2 five-inning mercy-rule win over the Eagles.
“We hit nearly .500 as a team,” said Poetter, who announced earlier in the year that he would step down after this season. He won state titles in 1999, 2004 and ’05. “But we weren’t very sharp defensively. This is the fourth time now that we’ve beat them and it’s kind of hard to stay focused.”
If the Hurricanes weren’t focused to start the game, they were after the top of the second inning. East Lake’s Emma Hvozdovich blasted a two-run home run to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead. They put two more runners in scoring position, but two strikeouts by PHU pitcher Taylor Sabol ended the threat.
In the bottom of the second, the Hurricanes scored four times. Jessica Adams led off with a single and went to third when the ball scooted past rightfielder Audrey Gangloff. Chrissy Tabulov followed with an RBI single.
Two outs later, Megan Copeland had an RBI double to tie the score. Torey Scott then drove in Copeland with a single, and Logyn Lilley tripled to bring home Scott and make it 4-2.
“I think the second inning was pretty much the turning point,” East Lake coach Mike Estes said. “We get the home run and then get runners on second and third and lay an egg. We put up four or five there then it’s a different game.”
PHU broke the game open in the fourth, scoring seven runs on seven hits. The highlight of the inning was a two-run, no-doubt home run by McCloskey. An inning later, McCloskey connected on another two-run homer to make it 13-2. It was her 13th home run and she now has 64 RBIs.
“We’ve been playing lackadaisical lately,” Poetter said. “That could come back to bite us.”
7A-10: After staking Seminole to an early lead, Countryside rallied to win the district title 4-1 Thursday night.
Reliever Nicolette Wunderly was key to the win. After striking out the final three batters in the top of the sixth, she retired all three in the last inning. Wunderly had five strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings.
“I was trying to hit my spots as best I could,” Wunderly said. “I knew my team had my back.”
Cougars coach Kaylyn Bayly pulled starting pitcher Alyssa Queen after back-to-back base hits by the Warhawks in the top of the third.
“They’d seen her way too many times at bat,” Bayly said. “We just wanted to mix things up.”
The Warhawks escaped a jam in the bottom of the first when two errors and a hit batter loaded the bases. Seminole took a 1-0 lead the next inning when Lauren Brucker scored from second base on Mackenzie Jahn’s double.
After tying the score on Alyssa Householder’s two-out RBI in the third, the Cougars (20-5) had three consecutive base hits in the fourth off Jennie Sittloh, who pitched a complete game. A hit-by-pitch base hit to left and a walk put Countryside up by three.
Wunderly got into a bit of trouble in the sixth when she allowed singles to the first two batters. But she dominated the rest of the inning, striking out the next three.
“Nicolette’s a little bit of a fireball,” Bayly. “She hasn’t pitched a whole lot, but she came on strong.”
2A-9: Canterbury won its sixth district title, beating Cambridge 13-0 in a game that was called after five innings because of the mercy rule.
In two district games, the Crusaders outscored opponents a combined 28-0 and played only eight innings because of the lopsided scores.
In Thursday’s final, Emily Winesett was dominant, striking out every batter she faced before she was relieved in the fourth inning. Winesett pitched five innings in two district games, recording 15 straight strikeouts.
Maddie Posey went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a triple in the final, and Danielle Romanello had a two-run home run.
“I told the girls it’s going to be different from here on out,” Canterbury coach Jody Moore said. “That’s why I scheduled the teams we had in the regular season. So we’ll be prepared for the playoffs.”
Correspondent Anthony Salveggi and staff writer Bob Putnam contributed to this report.