PLANT CITY — The backdrop was perfect, and Plant City supplied the near-perfect game.
On a crystal clear night when a full moon lit the sky and a constant breeze kept the American flag blowing in centerfield, Plant City provided one of its best performances on the season Wednesday with a 4-0 victory against Plant in a Class 8A region quarterfinal.
Plant City (24-2), which plays Riverview Tuesday in a rematch of last week's district finale, hit the trifecta with powerful pitching, timely hitting and near-flawless defense. Plant finished at 15-13.
"Everything was clicking and it was our night," Plant City coach Ashley Bullion said. "We've always contributed everybody from the top to the bottom and it's a whole team effort. … Even our dugout is helping with the runners."
Except for an outfield fielding error in the seventh — leading to Plant's only base runner to advance as far as third — Plant City hardly broke a sweat.
Alexis Williams' first-inning RBI single scored Becca Sorenson, her first of two run-scoring singles with two outs to give freshman right-handed pitcher Ashley Blessin all the offense she would need. Sorenson, the Raiders' senior third baseman who plans to attend Polk State College, added insurance in the fourth against Plant's Danielle Tringali with a two-run single, one of three Plant City players with two hits (Blessin was the other).
"I've been seeing the ball good lately," Sorenson said. "The last time I faced (Tringali), she hit me twice and struck me out on a drop ball. So I just wanted to make sure that I got the ball before it dropped (on the two-run single)."
Blessin allowed four singles and struck out seven in a 108-pitch outing (71 strikes). She allowed only one walk on six three-ball counts. Ten of Plant's 18 outs came on flyballs or pop-ups. Centerfielder Morgan Slater preserved the shutout on a lunging catch with a runner on second to end the fourth, and catcher Edmilly Molina threw out a Panther attempting to steal second in the fifth.
"We've been here before (Plant City lost to Steinbrenner in last year's region semifinals)," Bullion said. "But this year is different, because we have Ashley and she's been throwing a heck of a season. Everybody on defense has been supporting her."
Sorenson, who charged the plate to catch a potential sacrifice bunt in the fourth, said the Raiders rely on each other.
"We have good motivation throughout," she said. "When someone makes something (happen), we carry on with that motivation. We work as a team. … We need every single player on this team to be involved."