TAMPA — The pressure cooker of Class 8A, District 7 burned a new chapter Thursday night as Plant battled Wharton for control of fourth place.
The Wildcats led 2-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, but the Panthers answered with two runs in the fifth and the go-ahead run in the sixth. A 1-2-3 inning for Panthers starter Nikki Misner in the top of the seventh gave the Panthers a crucial 3-2 win.
“The teams in this district are so competitive, everyone’s beaten everyone,” Panthers coach Melissa Sigmon said. “It’s going to be about who is playing well at the right time.”
The teams were 3-4 in district play coming in. Plant was coming off a tough loss to district foe Newsome, and Wharton had just dropped a district game to Alonso. Also, the Panthers had lost 8-2 to Wharton in February.
Neither team would budge through two innings. The Wildcats squeaked a run in on a fielding error in the third. They added another run after baserunning mixup that had two runners at third. The throw to get the runner headed back to second allowed the runner to score from third, and the Panthers trailed 2-0 as they went to bat in the fifth.
Freshman Caroline Grieves, who hit a home run Tuesday against Newsome, took care of that by going deep left with Caroline Jinks on first. The two-run shot tied the game and switched momentum for the Panthers.
“We have been giving away too many outs and chances this year,” Sigmon said. “Tonight we only did once.”
The Panthers stepped up on defense as Megan Przeslawski stabbed a liner hit right at her and finished the 5-3 double play. Samantha Lastres tripled to start the sixth, and a sacrifice fly from Kayla McGory sent the go-ahead run across the plate.
Misner (8-5) pitched seven innings, allowing four hits, one earned run and struck out six, walking one. Wharton’s Mak Dooley (8-5) went six innings, allowing five hits on three runs, while fanning five and walking one.