BROOKSVILLE — Each of the 16 teams entered in the second annual Leopard Slam played two games Friday at Tom Varn Park.
By the early evening, the first semifinal for Saturday morning was decided thanks to victories by Hernando and River Ridge.
The host Leopards (14-2) extended their win streak to 12 to open the tournament, winning the first-round game 9-2 over Anclote (3-17). Hernando then shifted focus to its quarterfinal with Chaminade-Madonna (4-11).
“We started a little slow against Anclote,” Hernando coach Kevin Bittinger said. “Our girls have been working hard helping with the tournament, but once we got going they played very well.”
The Lions, making the spring break trip from Hollywood, beat Citrus (10-6) to open their bracket. However, Hernando looked motivated to reach its second consecutive championship game at the Leopard Slam. The Leopards lost last season’s final 4-0 to Nova Southeastern University.
Behind the arm of junior Courtney Riddle, the host program continued to roll. Riddle tossed four innings in the morning game, earning the win, then upped her intensity a notch against Chaminade-Madonna. The ace went all three innings, surrendering only two hits and striking out four.
She did her part at the plate as well, going 3-for-3 with three RBIs, but it was Tana McDaniel who went 2-for-2 with a double and a triple. The senior outfielder also walked once, knocked in three runs and scored three times.
“So many players hit well,” Bittinger said. “It’s hard to point to one or two of them that stood out.”
In the second quarterfinal, River Ridge (19-1) continued its stellar season. The Royal Knights ran roughshod over Weeki Wachee (0-15) in a 17-0 run-rule victory in the first round.
River Ridge, matching up with Lecanto (7-10), had an unusually close game before dispatching the Panthers 5-1. Junior Danielle Yant, who sported a 3-7 record with a 3.23 ERA coming into the weekend for Lecanto, held the Royal Knights to only four earned runs in 6 2/3 innings.
However, it was a lack of run support that kept the Panthers short. River Ridge ace Makenzie Goluba tossed a complete game, giving up only three hits and one earned run. The sophomore, who came into the tournament with a 0.33 ERA, struck out seven and walked two.
Goluba added to her own cause, knocking in two runs while going 2-for-2 with a walk against Yant.
Hernando and River Ridge will meet Saturday morning in the first semifinal, deciding who will compete in the championship game later.