PALM HARBOR — All season Palm Harbor University thrived with an offense that scored runs by the bushel, averaging nine per game.
In Friday’s Class 8A region final, the Hurricanes ran into a team even better at scoring — at least in the postseason.
Orlando Timber Creek continued its power surge in the playoffs, recording 19 hits and two home runs in a 12-3 victory.
The Wolves entered Friday’s game outscoring opponents a combined 22-2 in their two playoff games. A good chunk of those runs came courtesy of the long ball, with four starters hitting home runs.
It didn’t take long for Timber Creek (25-5) to start the sending the ball over the fence against the Hurricanes (25-5). The first home run came in the first inning from Taillon Bernier, a three-run blast that gave the Wolves an early lead. In the second inning, Timber Creek added three more runs, the big hit coming on a two-run homer from Mia Olson to make it 6-0.
“Our pitchers have gone a long way without getting a lot of strikeouts,” PHU coach Kerry Katchuk said. “They punched us in the mouth with those two home runs, and it was tough to come back from that.”
Still, the Hurricanes showed resolve, scoring twice in the third inning to make it 6-2. Moriah Connolly, who went 3-for-3, started things off with a single before stealing second and third. Logyn Lilley singled to bring home Connolly and Jess Adams doubled to score Lilley.
The game was scoreless through the fourth and fifth innings. Then the Wolves’ offense came alive — again. They scored three runs each in the sixth and seventh innings to put the game out of reach.
The Hurricanes added another run in the seventh. Connolly led off the inning with a single, stole second, moved to third on a groundout by Torey Scott and scored on a sacrifice fly by Lilley. Adams followed with a double but couldn’t score.
“This loss is painful, and will probably be for a while,” Adams said. “But the thing I’m most proud of is that we fought until the end. We always have the mind-set that we can come back from anything. We just couldn’t do it this time.”
2A: Canterbury headed back to state tourney
ST. PETERSBURG — In last year’s Class 2A region final, Canterbury gave up two runs to Boca Raton Grandview Prep in the bottom of the seventh and was denied a second straight state tournament appearance. This year, the Crusaders made sure that didn’t happen again.
Canterbury scored two runs in each of the first two innings then scored late to defeat the Pride 7-3. The Crusaders (19-12) advance to their second state tournament in three years.
“That’s a good team and I knew they would be,” Canterbury coach Jody Moore said. “It was important for us to score, and score early.”
The Crusaders did that in the first two innings. Grandview pitcher Hunter Sharf made a throwing error with one out that allowed Lindsay Graves to reach. Danielle Romanello followed with a walk. One out later, Kama Woodall singled off the first-base bag, scoring two.
In the second inning, Graves came through with a two-RBI single. With two strikes her single up the middle scored Whitney Laurent and Kelsey Hill.
“If I can get the front of my lineup to hit, then it shows the back of the lineup that (Sharf’s) hittable,” Moore said. “We’ve been working on pitch selection and the girls are finally getting it. It’s so much fun to watch them think up there.”
Woodall kept Grandview off the board until the fifth inning. No. 9 hitter Mackenzie Hart hit a home run to left to cut the lead to 4-1.
Things got stressful for Canterbury in the sixth when Sharf hit a two-run homer to make it 4-3. But the Crusaders got it all back and more in the bottom of the sixth.
Savvy Mitchell doubled off reliever Caitlin Rolston to lead off. Rolston was then relieved by Sharf. One out later, Romanello hit a two-run homer to right, her 11th of the season.
“They walked me twice already so I knew they didn’t want to do that,” Romanello said. “I knew they were going to pitch me outside and she threw me a screwball outside. I just waited on it and swung.”
Aside from getting the win, Woodall was 4-for-4 with two RBIs.
“It wasn’t my best pitching outing, but I think that’s the best I’ve hit all year,” Woodall said. “Usually I have trouble hitting to the opposite field, but I’ve been working on hitting those pitches.”
Canterbury totaled 10 hits.
Staff writer Rodney Page contributed to this report.