In addition to riseballs and fastballs, Plant pitcher Rose Yanger and Sickles counterpart Devon Morrison delivered a powerful, poignant message in their season-opening duel.
Both daughters of breast cancer survivors, Yanger and Morrison, as well as their respective teammates, scrapped their school colors for pink socks and shirts in an effort to raise awareness of the disease.
A silent auction was held during Tuesday's softball game at Plant High. Donation buckets were set up. Survivors were recognized — all in a concerted effort to conquer an affliction that strikes nearly 200,000 women a year, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation's website.
Among its victims: former Plant coach Sallie Scudder, who passed away six years ago.
"Win or lose … we're going to be raising a lot of money," said Yanger, a left-handed senior. "Either way, I'm just excited that we're having this game."
Credit Panthers coach Melissa Sigmon with spawning the idea. Sigmon is a member of Sirens of the Golden Sabre, a Gasparilla krewe that is dedicated in part to breast cancer awareness, and she wanted to honor Yanger's mom, Felicia Sable, who was diagnosed during the 2011 season.
At the time, Sable was an administrator at Sickles High. Today, she works in the school district's main headquarters in downtown Tampa.
"She is completely recovered now," Yanger said. "She had her reconstructive surgery. She had a double mastectomy. She was one of the lucky ones that had insurance. It was a couple of hard months, but she got through it, and I knew she would."
The Plant-Sickles story line became even more compelling when Gryphons coach Phil Giarrizzo informed Sigmon he had a pitcher — Morrison — whose mom also survived the disease.
Donna Morrison, diagnosed when Devon was in middle school, works in the neurosurgery department at the University of South Florida.
Sickles won the game, but the event carried significance far beyond its 5-4 score.
"(The night) means a lot," Devon Morrison said. "For any woman who's ever encountered breast cancer, you know, my hat's off to them because it was definitely rough seeing my mom go through it. Just imagining other women go through it, they're really tough."