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CLEARWATER — The first Pinellas Park batter bunted.
Then the next.
Then the next one attempted.
By what seemed like the umpteenth bunter, East Lake senior pitcher Alyssa Bache pretty much knew the small-ball strategy was in store for the rest of Friday’s game.
“That was a first — ever,” Bache (21-0) said after leading the Eagles to a 9-1 victory in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference title game at the Eddie C. Moore Complex. “I’ve never had that situation before so it was definitely awkward. You just try to stick to the way you normally pitch, but it took a little bit to get used to.”
The oddness of it all combined with a three-week hiatus because of cancellations played a role in East Lake falling behind in a game for the first time this season.
The Patriots took a 1-0 lead in the third when Jordan Bennett reached with a bunt single, stole second then scored on a bunt by Taylor Klinesmith that was turned into an error-ridden play by the Eagles (23-0). East Lake, ranked No. 2 nationally in the ESPN Rise Fab 50 poll, reclaimed the lead for good in the bottom half of the inning on an RBI single by Marisa Palumbo and two-run double by Sarah Schutz.
“That kind of woke the girls up, but it turned into a perfect type of game for us,” East Lake coach Mike Estes said. “We haven’t been able to re-create game situations exactly the way they turn out because we’ve been off for so long. We didn’t expect them to do what they did as far as bunting so much, but it was a challenge we needed coming off a long break.”
Sydney Dinelli led the Eagles with a 3-for-4 night that included a run-scoring double, and Peyton Collins went 2-for-3 with two RBIs.