PALM HARBOR — Perhaps Palm Harbor University was suffering from the heat. Maybe the Hurricanes were looking ahead in the bracket. Or it could have been they simply were going through the motions.
Whatever the case, PHU’s softball team was not its usual dominant self in Tuesday’s Class 8A, District 8 semifinal against North Port.
After jumping to a big lead, the Hurricanes had to sweat it out in the end, needing two solid defensive innings to win 7-6.
It was hardly the outcome anyone expected from top-seeded PHU against the No. 4 seed Bobcats, who were winless against district competition and had lost to the Hurricanes 18-1 earlier this season.
“I don’t know what was going on with us, but a win is a win,” PHU coach Kerry Katchuk said. “Usually, when we play bad we come back and play pretty well, the next game. The biggest thing, though, was just getting through and moving on.”
The Hurricanes (22-4) were patient at the plate, drawing 12 walks from a North Port staff that went through three pitchers. Problem was, PHU stranded 18 runners.
By the third inning, the Hurricanes were ahead 7-1. The Bobcats started chipping away, scoring three runs in the fourth inning and two in the fifth.
PHU tightened up defensively. Logyn Lilley relieved Rachel Taylor in the fourth inning and retired the final eight batters she faced.
The Hurricanes’ offense was led by Moriah Connolly, who was 2-for-3 with a triple and scored three runs.
“Sometimes you have to get a break and win these kind of games along the way,” Katchuk said.
8A-8: East Lake pulls through
Nicole Szelest hit a two-run double in the seventh inning to help visiting East Lake break open a tie game and beat Sarasota Riverview 7-4.
Ahead 3-0 through the first two innings, third-seeded East Lake (17-8) allowed the No. 2 Rams to rally and eventually tie the game at 4-all heading into the seventh.
That set up Szelest’s winning hit. The Eagles tacked on an insurance run and shut down the Rams in the bottom half of the inning.
“We weren’t facing their best pitcher,” East Lake coach Mike Estes said. “But we got the bats going and Gabby (Orito) and Diana (Rayder) both pitched and threw well.”
3A-9: Barons eke one out
ST. PETERSBURG — Top seed St. Petersburg Catholic advanced to Thursday’s Class 3A, District 9 final, but not without a few nervous moments. The Barons overcame an early one-run deficit, then hung on in the seventh inning for a 3-2 win over Northside Christian.
St. Petersburg Catholic (15-3) will play No. 2 Shorecrest, which defeated host Admiral Farragut 3-0.
“We always seem to play them close,” SPC coach Tom Fabian said. “These girls have known and played against each other for a long time. This is what I expected.”
The Mustangs got to SPC starter Kelsey Humphrey in the first inning. Humphrey walked Megan Tozour to start the game. One out later she hit Jessica Anderson with a pitch, then walked Katheryn Brown to load the bases.
Mariah Potter singled to score Tozour with the inning’s only run.
The Barons tied the score in the third on an RBI double by Paige Thiemann that scored Brooke Zoffer. In the fourth inning, Zoffer came through with an RBI single that scored Martita Sharlow to make it 2-1. It became 3-1 in the fifth when Humphrey got an RBI single that scored Anna Mixa.
Northside Christian got a run back in the sixth when Brown scored from second on a ground out by Koch. Brown rounded third and saw nobody covering home. She just beat the throw to make it 3-2.
A seventh-inning rally by the Mustangs ended at third base. Tozour ripped a double with two outs. A few pitches later she stole third and the throw went past third base. Tozour attempted to go home but was thrown out.
In the first game, Shorecrest got all the runs it needed in the fourth inning. With Hannah Smith on first with one out, Molly Webber hit a triple down the third-base line to score Smith. Three pitches later, Webber stole home to make it 2-0.
Shorecrest tacked on an insurance run in the sixth thanks to an RBI single by Smith. The Chargers have won eight straight and pitcher Raquel Galinski has three straight shutouts.
“We said on the bus on the way over here that it’s all about our defense,” Shorecrest coach Mike Galinski said. “Pitching and defense are the key for us. Raquel and Hannah have been the tandem for us all year.”
2A-9: Birthday's a blast for Canterbury pitcher
Canterbury’s Kama Woodall celebrated her 14th birthday by throwing a four-inning perfect game against Bayshore Christian in a 15-0 semifinal win. Woodall struck out seven. Cambridge Christian defeated Lakeside Christian 12-2 in the other semifinal.
“I didn’t really know (about the perfect game) until the end of the game,” said Woodall, an eighth-grader. “I didn’t want to know. I felt really good tonight.”
This was Woodall’s fourth no-hitter, but her first with Canterbury. The Crusaders (15-11) scored seven runs in the first inning and five more in the second to blow the game open. Bayshore pitcher Marie Kelly walked 15 batters and gave up five hits.
“I’m so proud of Kama,” Canterbury coach Jody Moore said. “I’ve watched her get better and better all season.”
Canterbury has not given up a run against a district opponent. In the only regular-season game against Cambridge, Canterbury won 11-0.
Staff writer Rodney Page contributed to this report.
Photo: Northside Christian’s Megan Tozour, right, beats the throw to second as St. Petersburg Catholic’s Anna Mixa defends in the fifth inning.