BROOKSVILLE — For the first game and five innings between Nature Coast and its rival, the Sharks seemed to have done what no other team could: Solve Hernando.
But on Senior Night at Tom Varn Park, the Leopards would not be denied and finally overcame Nature Coast, 5-2.
“It’s a special win because this senior class has meant so much to me as a special group,” Hernando coach Kevin Bittinger said. “That core group of seniors came in here as freshman and helped turn this program around.”
Shark pitcher Abbey Primavera (10-3) held Hernando in check through five innings, tossing three 1-2-3 innings. The freshman threw a complete game with four earned runs, six hits, two walks and seven strikeouts.
In the sixth, the Leopards (20-1) were down 2-1 before Danielle Harvey (0-for-2) drew a leadoff walk. After Tana McDaniel (1-for-3, RBI) flew out, Courtney Riddle (0-for-3) reached on an error and Summer Solovitch (1-for-3) singled to load the bases. The go-ahead hit came from Sierra Cannon (2-for-3), who doubled in Harvey and pinch-runner Josey Sims.
“We did not want to lose that game, especially after losing to them the first time,” Cannon said. “I usually try lay off and get deep into the count, but I saw some good pitches and just went with it.”
With runners on second and third, Kaylee Frascatore (1-for-2) tripled to bring in Solovitch and Cannon and push the lead to three runs.
“We were trying to do too much at the plate,” Bittinger said. “Once we let the game come to us, everything got better.”
According to Bittinger, Riddle (20-1) didn’t have her best stuff but buckled down to limit the damage, allowing two earned runs, two walks and seven hits while striking out seven. She pitched a complete game and earned her 60th victory with the Leopards, a Hernando County record. Alexis Adams had 58 wins in her four-year career (2008-12) at Springstead.
Riddle also went 27-8 at Hernando Christian Academy as a seventh- and eighth-grader under current Nature Coast coach Ernie Chatman. Her overall prep record is 87-29.
Catcher Chyloe Gonzalez went 2-for-3 with a triple and a run for Nature Coast (19-3). She scored on a single by Courtney David in the third inning to give the visiting team a 2-1 lead.