PLANT CITY — Chuck Poetter stood near the first-base box, hands on hips, staring toward his dugout, looking stunned and bewildered as his players filed out.
Then, as the last players left the dugout, Poetter followed them off the field.
For the last time.
After three state titles and nearly 400 victories, Poetter’s coaching career ended in Friday’s 6-5 loss to Durant.
The Hurricanes (26-3) ran into a team that refuses to lose.
The Cougars (21-4) fell behind 11-0 and came back to win a district title, rallied from 5-0 down to beat East Lake in the region quarterfinals on a walkoff home run then did the same thing to PHU on Friday night, tying the game with a homer in the seventh and hitting another in the eighth to win it.
A 3-0 first-inning lead, on an RBI single from Rachel Taylor and a two-run single by Chrissy Tabulov, was a distant memory by the time this one heartbreakingly ended for PHU.
The Hurricanes missed out on a number of scoring threats, leaving the bases loaded in the second and stranding 11 overall.
PHU was stymied by a game plan that took power hitter Samantha McCloskey, who set a Tampa Bay RBI record this season, out of the picture. She was walked all five times up, including twice when there were two runners on base.
“What’s she got, 14 home runs?” said Durant coach Matt Carter. “You think I’m going to let one kid kill me? I hate to say it, but that’s part of the game.”
In the top of the eighth, she was intentionally walked to lead off the inning. The next batter lined into a double play.
“I had no choice. Tie game, you going to let one blast kill you? Not me,” Carter said.
Trailing 4-3, PHU took the lead in the top of seventh. Jessica Adams (3-for-5) and Tabulov singled to open the inning and came around to score on a throwing error. But the Hurricanes may have left the most important run out there, failing to push across another despite having runners on second and third with just one out.
That left the lead at 5-4, which wasn’t enough as Alyssa Colding hit the first homer of her high school career to send the game to extra innings.
In the eighth inning with two out, leadoff hitter JoJo Lafave, a slap hitter swinging away for just the third time all season, snapped a 1-for-17 slump when she smacked the first offer from Taylor Sabol over the rightfield fence for the winner.
7A: Cougars can't quiet Chiefs' lively bats
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.
In the fourth, Kelly Smith and Lindsey Hagberg had run-scoring doubles and Madison Gonzalez hit an RBI single before Bell, who had been hit twice already in the game, came up with two out.
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.”
6A: Osceola's chances slip away
LAKEWOOD RANCH — Lakewood Ranch ace Huntrye Elling didn’t dominate the way she usually does, and the Mustangs made some uncharacteristic errors, but they defeated Osceola 5-4 in a Class 6A region semifinal.
Elling allowed six hits and struck out eight. She pitched herself out of several jams, including the final inning when Osceola (18-8) trimmed its deficit to one run and had the tying and winning runs on base.
Osceola cut its deficit to 3-2 in the top of the fifth, but Lakewood Ranch came back with two runs in the bottom of the inning without a hit, taking advantage of two errors and a walk.
5A: Both pitchers shine but Dunedin prevails
DUNEDIN — Outside of an explosive third inning for Boca Ciega, and some aggressive base running from Dunedin, Friday’s Class 5A region semifinal was very much a pitcher’s duel.
The Falcons scratched out four runs over the first three innings and Bogie dropped four in the third. Then five scoreless innings led to a nail-biting finish in the ninth. Senior Samantha Silver and her sister, freshman Olivia, were set up on the corners as senior Chelsea Flanagan crushed a ball to deep right-center. Samantha walked home and the Falcons won 5-4.
“The (pitchers) battled each other all night long,” Falcons coach Roy Silver said. “There was one point where (Bogie senior Mallory Allen) struck out five batters in a row, I was starting to wonder if it was our hitters or if she was getting better as the game went on.”
The Pirates got four consecutive base hits to start the third inning, scored four runs off them and got freshman pitcher Aubrey Ehlers flustered. Ehlers regrouped to complete nine innings, throwing 124 pitches, striking out 11 and only walking one. Allen was just as strong, going eight innings and throwing 142 pitches, while striking out 10 and walking four.
The difference was the Falcons aggression on the base paths. The Falcons stole eight bases on nine attempts, four via the Silver sisters. They also squeezed two of their five runs in on panicked errors by Bogie infielders.
“When our top two hitters get on base, we can make things happen,” Coach Silver said.
2A: Crusaders to face Grandview again
ST. PETERSBURG — For the second year in a row, Canterbury slipped past Southwest Florida Christian by one run. Crusaders catcher Lacy Adams caught the runner stealing second for the final out and a 2-1 victory in the Class 2A region semifinals.
With two out in the top of the seventh, and ahead on a 1-2 count, Emily Winesett hit batter Emily Gogerty to put the tying run on first. But the excitement for the visitors was short-lived as Adams caught Gogerty trying to take second base.
The win pits Canterbury (18-11) against the team it defeated 1-0 last year to win its first state title, Grandview Prep.
Neither team had a hit Friday until Kings pitcher Meghan Sullivan reached on a single to shallow left-center in the fifth inning. She scored two batters later when Adams picked up a slow roller in front of the plate and threw past first base.
Winesett led off the bottom of the inning with a single past the shortstop. Pinch runner Kelsey Hill stole second, and Savvy Mitchell hit an infield roller past the mound. The throw to the catcher was offline and Hill scored to tie.
After Sullivan struck out the next two, Julia Cieutat singled to right to score Mitchell.
“I was proud how they didn’t get rattled,” Canterbury coach Jody Moore said of when her team fell behind. “This team jells really well. They have a goal in mind.”
Staff writer Joey Knight and correspondents Andy Warrener and Anthony Salveggi contributed to this report, which used information from the Bradenton Herald.