The format of the Little League All-Star Sectional tournament makes it so a team doesn't necessarily have to win all of its games to advance.
But, it's probably best not to leave things to chance.
Plant City's Majors (11-12 year old) stars will want to heed what happened to their softball counterparts last weekend. At the Section 4 tournament in Lakewood Ranch, Plant City went 2-1, as did competitors Bloomingdale and Land O'Lakes. The teams split their games with each other.
And so the team that would advance to the state tournament, as well as who would have their World Series aspirations ended, came down to a tiebreaker.
Cruelly, a tiebreaker where at first glance Plant City appeared to have the edge. Whichever team was best in fewest runs allowed would be declared the winner, and Plant City allowed 13 runs in its three games, compared to 15 for Bloomingdale and 17 to Land O'Lakes.
However the "runs allowed" tiebreaker actually is based on dividing the total amount of runs by how many innings a team plays. It allows that a game that ends early by mercy rule to not be considered the same as one that goes extras.
And that allowed Bloomigdale to advance.
"I thought we were definitely the best team," said Plant City softball manager Tim Fultz.
Committing six errors, Plant City lost the July 12 game to Bloomingdale 11-2. The girls bounced back to beat Buffalo Creek (Palmetto) 11-1 and then beat Land O'Lakes 7-1.
Ashley Blessin shut down LOL, which had defeated Bloomingdale 8-6 in nine innings earlier Saturday. Turns out Plant City needed to score a couple of more runs, and have Bloomingdale give up a couple of more in the game it won against Buffalo Creek 11-6.
"It was all boiling down to those two games going on at the same time," Fultz said. "We were finally playing the way we envisioned us playing. Ashley is a phenomenal pitcher, the best at her age in Hillsborough County."
How close was the run race? Bloomingdale's title-clinching number was .7143. Land O'Lakes' number was .85, and Plant City's .86. If all of the games went the normal six innings Plant City would still be playing, but the loss to Bloomingdale was a five-inning mercy rule, and the win over Buffalo Creek went just four.
All five of Plant City's district winners that played at sectionals last weekend came up short.
Plant City's Majors baseball team, which hopes to avoid that fate and return to the Southeast Regional, must first get past this weekend and then, the state tournament. Plant City begins today (Friday, July 19) at 7 against District 13 champ North Brandon.
Then Saturday Plant City faces host Lakewood Ranch at 10 a.m. followed by Lutz at 12:30 p.m.
All three opponents played in last year's sectional.
"All three games last year were close as we won over North Brandon 5-1, Lakewood Ranch 8-4, and Lutz 11-7," said manager T.J. Messick. "We expect that it will be just as tough this year as well. We know all three opponents are very good but we try not to focus on them.
"We remained focused on playing our game and good things tend to happen for us."
Darek Sharp can be reached at [email protected]