BROOKSVILLE — In the quarterfinals of the Leopard Slam on Friday, Countryside advanced past Nature Coast 3-1. The Cougars will face Gulf, a 4-3 winner over Mitchell.
In the nightcap, Mitchell led for 4 1/2 innings before a bases-clearing triple from Buccaneers sophomore Haley McCarthy in the bottom of the fifth tied the game. Bernie Anderson put on the finishing touch when she slapped a single to rightfield, driving in the go-ahead run.
“When I got that hit I was like, ‘Yeah, got them,’ ” McCarthy said. “You have to keep your head high and never let up.”
The action on the basepaths was a welcome relief for the Bucs, whose hitting had dried up since the first inning. The Bucs watched the Mustangs chip away until they led 3-1, and things looked grim despite a gritty pitching performance from junior Madison Morlan. She gave up nine hits and three earned runs but struck out nine and seemed to get stronger the tighter the situation.
Morlan escaped four bases-loaded situations before mowing down the side in the sixth. She needed a little help in the seventh after an infield single and an error put two runners on with no outs.
“We knew they were going to try to bunt her (Nicole Milford) in so we wanted to keep the pitches up in the zone so maybe they would pop one up,” Morlan said.
Mustangs sophomore Ashlee Allaire sacrificed to advance the runners. Lydia Kinney laced a hit to right, but it was stabbed by Anderson at second. Anderson, who was 3-for-4 with two RBIs and the winner, held the runner at third then made the play at first. A routine groundout to third ended the game.
Mustangs starter Jordan Fowler went six innings and yielded four earned runs on five hits, striking out three and walking three.
“This team, with their backs to the wall, doesn’t blink,” Bucs coach Rick Hohenthaner said. “They played tough all night and kept them (Mitchell) off balance.”
In the earlier game, Nature Coast and Countryside dueled for 3 1/2 innings before the Cougars broke through. They scored one run in the fourth on an error, another in the fifth off a sacrifice fly and a third run in the sixth when Sharks pitcher Kathryn Gonzalez plunked Samantha Sharpe with the bases loaded.
The Sharks got one run back in the seventh off back-to-back fielding errors, but the Cougars escaped with the victory. Both teams left seven on base and bailed out of tough situations throughout. A couple of great snags in centerfield by Sharks senior Dana Mackiewicz kept the Cougars baserunners on the bags and the game from getting away.
Gonzalez pitched six innings and gave up just one earned run on three hits with three walks.
Countryside starter Alyssa Queen threw six innings and gave up no earned runs on just a pair of hits. She struck out two and walked three.