Region softball roundup: Durant's latest comeback defies all odds

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Fri. April 27, 2012 | John C. Cotey | Email

PLANT CITY — It fell behind 11-0 and came back to win a district title, and if you thought that was crazy …

The very next game, a dropped foul ball with two out gave Paige Davis another swing, which she used to hit a walkoff home run, and if you thought that was amazing …

Friday night a girl hit her first home run since she was 10 in the bottom of the seventh and a hitter mired in a 1-for-17 slump hit another one in the eighth inning and, yeah, it’s starting to sound like we’re just making stuff up now, doesn’t it?

But it’s all real.

Slumping leadoff hitter JoJo Lafave drove a first-pitch winning home run over the rightfield fence to give Durant’s confounding Cougars another remarkable comeback victory, 6-5 over Palm Harbor University in the Class 8A region semifinals.

Lafave’s home run capped a comeback that saw the Cougars fall behind 3-0 in the first inning then survive a defensive meltdown in the top of the seventh.

“I was asking my coach the whole game to let me swing away. I’ve swung away two times all season,” said Lafave, a slap hitter. “He said we don’t have anything to lose, so he let me hit away and I knew what she was going to pitch me. It was the same sequence every single time and I just drove it.”

The Cougars (21-4) fell behind early but got a two-run homer from Shannon Bell in the second and two more runs in the fourth — one on a Lafave squeeze bunt — to take a 4-3 lead into the top of the seventh.

But PHU loaded the bases with one out, and scored two on a throwing error by third baseman Kennedy Dean to retake the lead.

“(Dean) was down. I told her don’t give up, everyone has your back we’re not going to let you down,” Lafave said. “I told her to stand up and cheer for us, and she stood up and cheered.”

Junior Alyssa Colding made Lafave’s prophesy come true, driving a ball over the leftfield fence — the first homer of her high school career — to tie the game.

“I’m the slowest person on the team, but I can say when I hit that home run, I ran those bases faster than I ever have in my life.”

What exactly does it take to finally put away the Cougars?

No one seems to know. Deficits are erased, leads slip away, errors are overcome, Paige Davis guts her way through 160 pitches, a cold hitter hits a winning home run, and the season continues.

Like some movie. Or a book.

But it’s all real.

4A: AHN catcher makes amends

TAMPA — It took Academy of the Holy Names’ Christina Lodato one year and one day to gain redemption.

Lodato, a senior catcher whose errant toss on a routine return throw to the pitching circle in the 2011 region quarterfinals allowed the decisive run to score in a 3-1 loss to McKeel Academy, paid back her teammates in a 10-6 victory over DeSoto County in the Class 4A region semifinal. Her key move was anything but routine.

Down in the count and with AHN down on the scoreboard, Lodato convinced the home-plate umpire into letting her reach first base with the bases loaded. The play — ruled that Lodato was hit by a Brandi Hazen pitch — forced in the first of five runs in the third as the Jaguars erased a 4-1 lead.

Lodato had a 1-2 count with one out when the home-plate umpire failed to initially make a call on the inside pitch. Lodato, who drove in three runs, glanced back and said, “Sir, I think that hit me.” The umpire immediately motioned Lodato to first.

“I thought it hit me,” she said. “But once I got on first, I couldn’t believe I was there.”

The Bulldogs had the potential tying run at the plate in the sixth with two out, but centerfielder Ashton Hill caught Lynsey Rector’s drive in front of the fence with two runners aboard. Jackie Moreda had three hits and AHN parlayed five DeSoto errors into four unearned runs.

“Redemption for Lodato,” AHN coach Don Barron said.

7A: Chamberlain bats light up in five-inning rout

TAMPA — Earlier this week, Chamberlain honored Countryside’s request to move Friday’s region semifinal to a 4 p.m. start, so the Cougars players could make that night’s prom at Safety Harbor Spa.

When Friday afternoon arrived, the Chiefs transformed from accommodating to annihilating.

LSU-bound senior Bianka Bell, playing with a closed right eye, hit a grand slam over the scoreboard in left-center to highlight an eight-run fourth in a five-inning, 13-1 Chiefs rout.

The blast, Bell’s eighth in the regular season, capped what might have been Chamberlain’s most potent offensive exhibition of the season. The top five hitters in the Chiefs’ batting order finished a combined 11-for-15 with 12 RBIs.

“There were a lot of girls stepping up and bang, bang, bang, bang,” veteran coach Bobby Diez said. “I mean, just up and down people stroking the ball. (Bell) put the finishing touches on it, but we’re a pretty good club right now.”

A doubles deluge preceded Bell’s homer. First baseman Kelly Smith and centerfielder Madison Gonzalez hit consecutive first-inning doubles to spark a three-run first. Drexel-bound third baseman Ellen Scott drove in two more runs with another double in the second.

“It’s kind of what we expect all the time,” Scott said.

In the fourth, Smith and Lindsey Hagberg had run-scoring doubles and Gonzalez hit an RBI single before Bell, who had been hit twice already in the game, came up with two out.

“I was actually really calm that at-bat,” said Bell, suffering from ptosis in the right eye as a result of a concussion six weeks ago.
“I was just like, ‘Okay, if she hits me, oh well. It’s still a run. If she doesn’t hit me, I’m looking for a good pitch down and I’m going to send her over the fence.’ ”

Cougars coach Kaylyn Bayly, whose team managed only four hits and committed two errors, said her pitchers — starter Alyssa Queen and Nicolette Wunderly — were trying to keep the ball in on Bell’s hands.

“Hence the fact that we hit her twice,” Bayly said. “She likes the outside pitch, she can drive it. I mean, she can drive any pitch. She’s just a great hitter.”

7A: Riverview strands eight in loss

At Bartow, senior ace Lauren West tossed a two-hitter and struck out 11 Riverview batters to lead Polk County’s resident softball juggernaut to a 9-0 romp at the “Hive.”

West also surrendered five walks against a fickle strike zone, but watched the Sharks (16-15) leave eight runners stranded.

Senior shortstop Tonee Fabrizi’s double sparked Bartow’s three-run first inning. By the time classmate Rachael Imig laid down a textbook suicide squeeze in the fifth, the host (25-4) had a 6-0 advantage.

Staff writer Joey Knight and correspondent Don Jensen contributed to this report.

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