EAST LAKE — The mechanics on the mound were straightforward and sound, the strategy a mix of sophistication and strength, the drop ball as precise as the fastball was powerful. The demeanor was one of professional pride.
Palm Harbor University’s Taylor Sabol kept facing East Lake batters and mowing them down with ease Thursday night.
Through six innings, she was pitcher perfect.
Sabol entered the seventh on the verge of her first perfect game. The first batter she faced, Makayla Powers, led off by hitting a ball toward the backstop. Two fielders tried catching the ball. Neither did. The foul ball gave Powers new life and she made the most of it, launching a ball that sailed over the leftfield fence for a home run.
It was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect night for Sabol and PHU in a 4-1 victory.
“I wasn’t that sure that I had a perfect game going,” Sabol said. “I know someone mentioned something about it in the seventh. I really try not to think about those things.”
Sabol got the support she needed from an offense that collected 10 hits and a defense that caught anything within reach.
The Hurricanes (11-2) scored once in the second inning when Alayna Gallagher singled to bring home Chrissy Tabulov, who reached on an error. In the third inning, Tabulov hit a sacrifice fly that scored Jessica Adams for what turned out to be the winning run.
Samantha McCloskey gave PHU more breathing room by launching a two-run homer in the seventh.
“I was just looking for a pitch to drive and I saw one that I liked,” said McCloskey, who has four home runs this season.
The only thing left was to see if Sabol stayed perfect. After allowing the home run, Sabol retired the next three batters.
“My drop ball was really working and my defense was helping me out with some great plays,” she said.
This was the second time the Hurricanes faced their Class 8A, District 8 rival in the past five days. Unlike the first meeting, a 15-14 slugfest PHU won in extra innings, this was more of a defensive battle.
“I was very happy with the way we played against a great team,” Hurricanes coach Chuck Poetter said. “We could see East Lake two, three more times this season, maybe even again in the region final if we get that far.”