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ST. PETERSBURG — After watching his hitters swing aggressively at first pitches and force pop-ups in the semifinals, the biggest thing St. Petersburg Catholic coach Tom Fabian wanted from his lineup in Friday’s Class 3A, District 9 championship game was patience.
The Barons waited on pitches and hit grounders and line drives when they connected. And they scored runs in bunches, cruising to a 12-4 victory over host Northside Christian.
This was the ninth district title for Fabian in his 15 years as coach at SPC. The Barons (16-3) will host Bradenton Christian in the region quarterfinals. The Mustangs (15-7) will travel to play Sarasota Cardinal Mooney.
“We really struggled at the beginning of the season,” Fabian said. “But this is one of the hardest-working teams I’ve ever had. The last half of the season these girls really started hitting the ball.”
Through four innings, the game was a see-saw battle. Trailing 2-1, Northside scored two runs in the fourth inning to go ahead 3-2. The Mustangs had four hits in the inning, the biggest coming on a triple by Lindsey Tozour.
Then things unraveled for Northside. In the top of the fifth, SPC sent 11 batters up, drew two walks and took advantage of four errors and a wild pitch to score seven runs for a 9-3 lead. Kelsey Humphrey had two hits in the inning. Her first, a double, scored two runs.
“Once we get going, we can really put the ball in play,” Fabian said. “It’s tough to pitch around anyone because they all can contribute. The top and bottom of our order really came through.”
The Mustangs scored in the bottom of the fifth on an inside-the-park homer from Jessica Anderson. But Northside could not get any closer.
The Barons added three runs in the seventh. Humphrey sealed the win by recording three strikeouts, including the last two with runners on first and second.
“Kelsey has been tremendous,” Fabian said. “She really isn’t a pitcher, but we needed one and she’s worked hard at it.”