BROOKSVILLE — The Leopard Slam Tournament featured dominant performances on its first day, including 10-run rule victories Friday from host Hernando and visiting Fort Lauderdale University.
Looking to advance to this morning’s semifinal round, Hernando stood on the shoulders of ace pitcher Courtney Riddle to dispatch Central 10-0 in only five innings.
The Leopards (9-5) were coming off a week layoff and looked rusty early, especially at the plate. Central pitcher Casey Vsetula, who was just returning from a back injury that caused her to miss several games, she held the Leopards to four runs in four innings.
“We played anxious, and it catches up to us with our bats first,” Hernando coach Kevin Bittinger said. “Our 1-4 hitters are a junior, a freshman and two sophomores. When that is the case, you’re going to have days like today.”
It was after Vsetula was pulled due to aggravating that same injury that things got out of hand.
Reliever Alexis Ferrara walked the only five batters she faced in the fifth, while her relief, Kara Masters, could not retire a batter either until Hernando eventually scored six runs to end the contest.
Riddle was amazing for the home team. She tossed a complete game, striking out seven, walking only one and allowing one hit to Central (6-9), a bloop single over first base that never left the infield dirt.
University was able to show its dominance in a similar fashion over another local team, Nature Coast, with an 11-1 win in five innings.
The Suns (12-2) weren’t booming at the plate early as Sharks starter Mariah Crawford did a solid job of containing a usually potent offense. However, in the third inning, Crawford had to leave the game when the first batter, University’s Gabi Martinez, hit a hard liner off her glove hand.
“She’ll have to ice it down and see if she can move it (today),” Nature Coast coach Kristin Peeples said, “because she can’t move it right now.”
Sharks reliever Kathryn Gonzalez came in and surrendered a big inning in the fourth. University scored five runs in the frame on Nature Coast (5-8).
Much of the offense over the course of the game was set up by Suns shortstop Amanda Johnson (4-for-4, double, triple, two RBIs, three runs scored). Johnson had the walkoff double to end the game in the fifth, knocking in Jenna Ghibaudy.