NEW PORT RICHEY — Giving a lead to Royal Knights junior pitcher Lakyn Shull is usually not good for opposing teams.
Thursday evening, Shull's teammates gave her plenty of run support to help vault River Ridge into today's 4A-8 final, as the Knights cruised to a 12-1 semifinal victory over Nature Coast.
"We hit the heck out of the ball," River Ridge coach Ernie Beck said. "I don't think anyone has scored six runs against her all year. I'm just glad we jumped out today."
Shull (11 strikeouts) and the River Ridge defense were able to contain the Sharks' (14-8-1) speedy runners off the base pads for most of the night.
In the first inning, Nature Coast's Brooke Sager got a triple off Shull but the Sharks left her stranded on third to end the inning.
In the bottom of the second inning, River Ridge began its scoring spree by plating six runs off five singles and one wild pitch from Sharks pitcher Ashley Antczak.
River Ridge (23-3) had smooth sailing from then on and added three more runs in the third and fourth innings.
In the earlier semifinal between Sunlake (18-8) and Zephyrhills, the Bulldogs benefitted from a great pitching effort from Lauren Pasquale, defeating the Seahawks (18-8) 7-1 to claim a berth in today's district final against River Ridge.
Pasquale struck out seven batters in a complete game and the only run allowed was unearned.
The Bulldogs (15-10) broke the stalemate in the fifth inning by scoring five runs and pulling away from Sunlake.
"We got some key hits tonight," Bulldogs coach Craig Milburn said.
"And can't say enough about (Pasquale's) pitching tonight. She's had one heck of a year."