CLEARWATER — The stretch of zeroes on the scoreboard extended through six innings as Freedom and Countryside, teams known for offense, had trouble manufacturing runs in Wednesday’s Class 7A region quarterfinal.
It appeared to be more of the same in the seventh as the Patriots led off the inning with two straight outs.
Then the offense came together.
Kayla Maczuga, a pinch hitter, started things off with a single. That was followed by a single from Ashley Wilson. Rachel Carlson followed with another single.
By the time the top of the inning was over, Freedom had put together five straight singles, scored two runs and held on for a 2-0 victory, its first in the postseason.
“The girls worked hard, and we made a few adjustments,” Patriots coach Autum Hernandez said. “Our bats started a little slow, but we continued to put the ball in play and we were able to get those two big runs in the seventh.”
Maddy Hall, a freshman, had the winning hit, a single off a full count that scored Maczuga. Caitlin Parker followed with a single that brought home Wilson to give Freedom (19-3) more breathing room.
“I basically was just looking to make contact,” Hall said. “When it got to a full count, that’s really when the jitters started coming out. I’m just glad I was able to get the hit. It was big. Real big.”
The Cougars (24-4) had six hits and runners in scoring position three times but could not score.
7A: Sophomore comes up big for Plant City
PLANT CITY — Vengeance was Plant City’s on Wednesday night as the Raiders knocked Bartow out of the Class 7A region tournament with a 5-2 victory after losing to the Yellow Jackets at this stage last year.
The Raiders were fueled by a complete-game performance from sophomore Noelle Dietrich, who gave up just two runs on four hits with a pair of strikeouts. Afterward, the team was looking forward to the possibility of a district final rematch with East Bay.
“This win was big for this team because we have a lot of history with Bartow,” Plant City coach Amanda Sawyer said. “This win gives these girls a lot of confidence. We got a mature performance from Noelle tonight, and now we’d love to see East Bay again.”
Dietrich gave herself run support at the plate, driving in two runs in the first inning and connecting on the fly ball that drove in the winning runs in the bottom of the sixth.
After five shutout innings, Bartow managed to play small ball to get two runs in the top of the sixth. But with the bases loaded in the bottom half Dietrich smacked a shallow fly ball into centerfield that was caught, but followed by a double throwing error that allowed all three runs to score.
“We were ready for this game,” Dietrich said. “I felt good on the mound during warmups and was just focusing on hitting my spots. I was able to use my changeup to keep them off balance, and at the plate it meant a lot to me to give us a few key runs.”
7A: Stellar pitching, defense lift Chamberlain
TAMPA — Rachel Dwyer wants to be a doctor one day. She already knows how to operate with the pressure on.
Dwyer, a senior who will attend the University of Virginia in the fall, hurled a three-hit shutout and received plenty of defensive help as defending state champion Chamberlain knocked off St. Petersburg 5-0 in a Class 7A region quarterfinal.
The Chiefs (21-7) will face Freedom, a 2-0 winner against Countryside, on Tuesday.
St. Petersburg (16-7), playing its first region quarterfinal since 1998, couldn’t overcome a case of the jitters. Four infield errors by the Green Devils led to four unearned runs and Dwyer hardly broke a sweat.
Dwyer (16-6) struck out five and threw only 78 pitches as the Chiefs’ defense sparkled. Her teammates handled 16 of 17 fielding chances flawlessly, all but one in the infield.
“I have a lot of faith in my defense,” Dwyer said. “Coach (Bob Diez) always tells me to get 21 groundballs and we’ll be good.”
Chamberlain scored the only run it needed with two out in the first. Lindsey Hagberg doubled, and courtesy runner Kelsi Mays scored when Jenna Brownell reached on an error. The Chiefs added unearned runs in the second and fourth, and another one to cap a two-run fifth.
“We’re a young team, we came in and played tight at the beginning of the game, and we didn’t settle down,” St. Petersburg coach Don McNally said. “From where we started from fall ball to today, it’s unbelievable. We have only one senior, our pitcher (Bre Setree), and she put this team on her back from the beginning of the season.”
Lauren Holbrook and Hagberg each had two hits for Chamberlain.
3A: Carrollwood Day's rally not enough
TAMPA — Carrollwood Day usually had to overcome one bad inning in every game — including victories — this season, according to coach Chuck Fest.
Unfortunately, two subpar innings proved to be too much for the fledgling Patriots.
Carrollwood Day rallied to tie Lakeland Christian in the fifth inning and send Wednesday’s Class 3A region quarterfinal to extra innings.
The Vikings, though, scored three unanswered runs in the ninth to advance to the next round, winning 7-4 at Fest Field.
“We came out and fought hard,” Fest said. “They were just one play better than us.”
The Patriots (10-6) trailed 4-2 in the fifth inning but evened the score when Amanda Rose hit a two-out triple to the warning track in right-centerfield that plated two runners.
“I think we’ve got the biggest porch out of anybody,” said Fest, referring to the 225-foot wall in straightaway centerfield. “If we were a 200-foot fence all the way around and it leaves the yard, then we’re going home. …It was a shot, but those are the breaks of the game.”
Rose, who pitched all nine innings, kept Lakeland Christian (19-5) off the scoreboard from the third on until the ninth inning, when a handful of errors doomed the Patriots.
The Vikings’ Brooke Wilsman reached second base on an error to start the inning and slid into third successfully courtesy of Emily Murphy’s sacrifice bunt. The throw from third base to second to gun down an aggressive Murphy went into the outfield, allowing Wilsman to come home with the winning run.
Lakeland Christian scored four runs in the third inning to take control of the game.
“(The third inning) could have been a lot worse,” Fest said. “We’ve had a lot worse.”
Carrollwood Day scored a run in the first inning when Emma Frost led off with a triple and came home on a single by Savannah Bennett. Frost scored again in the third on a wild pitch to cut it to 4-2.
5A: Rough loss ends Lennard’s season
On the heels of its first district title in school history, Lennard followed with what coach Jamie McCulley called “one of the worst games we’ve ever played.”
The Longhorns were knocked out of the playoffs in a 16-2 five-inning loss to Bayshore in their Class 5A region quarterfinal.
Lennard struggled from the mound, couldn’t keep up at the plate and committed four errors.
“We just kept burying ourselves down deep in the beginning,” McCulley said. “It wasn’t a pretty game.”
The loss ends a historic season for the Longhorns, who went 6-2 in District 5A-11 then claimed the district tournament title last week.
McCulley said their regional appearance could serve as a learning experience for her young team, which will lose only three seniors.
“We have to respect the potential that we have,” she said.
5A: Lake Region too much for East Bay
GIBSONTON — Considering how far they’d come, veteran East Bay coach Glenn Rodriguez couldn’t be too upset. East Bay, seeded third in last week’s district tournament, finished a mediocre 6-4 in the final 7A-8 standings. The Indians twice suffered three-game losing streaks during the season and at one point were below .500.
“Considering where we were at during certain points of this season,” Rodriguez said, “we’d come a long away.”
Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite far enough.
Haley Wiseman was brilliant in the circle and Lake Region (20-8) put up three runs in the sixth as the visiting Thunder defeated East Bay 4-1.
“(Wiseman) was very good,” Rodriguez said. “She would get ahead in the count and then spot it on the corners.”
Wiseman didn’t throw especially hard but was able to locate her pitches well, especially up in the zone. The junior righty fanned 13 and gave up just three hits — all singles.
“She had a really good riseball,” East Bay starter Taylor Baker said. “Everything had great movement.”
Baker was one of the few Indians (17-12) to solve Wiseman. Baker singled home Kiara Burrows in the sixth to pull East Bay within two. Madison Culver represented the tying run at the plate, but Wiseman pulled the string on a wicked changeup for a strikeout, ending the Indians’ threat.
“We had way too many strikeouts,” Rodriguez said. “Their pitcher just had our number.”
More 5A: Blake handled Dunedin in a 6-0 victory.
The Falcons struck out 10 times and their defense was unusually sloppy, committing costly errors that led to runs.
“You can’t strike out that many times and expect to win,” Falcons coach Roy Silver said. “It’s a bitter pill for the girls to take, especially because we had played so well leading up to this game.”
Staff writer Joel Anderson and correspondents Brandon Wright, Don Jensen, Bryan Burns and David Rice contributed to this report, which uses information from the Ledger.