TAMPA — Despite giving up a run that put her team in a first-inning hole on Sunday, Chamberlain pitcher Olivia Dwyer didn’t panic as she walked back to the dugout.
Even with the stakes raised against North Fort Myers in a Class 6A region final, the sophomore knew she could count on her offense to pick up the slack.
Right on cue, it delivered.
A two-run bottom of the first for the Chiefs — including a mammoth home run by Lauren Williams — provided a lift, and Dwyer stymied the Red Knights the rest of the way en route to a 3-1 victory to give Chamberlain its first state final four berth since 2012 when it won the 7A state title.
“I try not to let the little things get to me,” said Dwyer, who yielded five hits with two walks and struck out five. “It was still early in the game, and I knew my team would come back to help me.”
Katelyn Kelly singled to lead off for North Fort Myers (22-6) and scored on a fielder’s choice.
But the Chiefs (23-3) quickly squashed any confidence that the Red Knights gained in the bottom of the first as Williams crushed the second pitch from Mackenzie Peterson over the centerfield wall to tie the score 1-1.
Chamberlain took the lead on Elizabeth Diaz’s fielder’s choice after singles by Hope Hernandez and Jenna Brownell. But longtime coach Bob Diez was frustrated that his team stranded a runner in scoring position, one of six in the game.
“Lauren picked us up and got us going,” Diez said. “We made this much harder. I’ll give (North Fort Myers) credit, but … we should knock in runs better than that.”
Brownell provided an insurance run in the third on a sacrifice bunt by Kelsi Mays.
“This is a really young team and this is a big accomplishment,” Diez said. “You always hope you do this, but they’ve really worked their butts off and they’ve come up big."