TAMPA — Even though Chamberlain-Plant might be the county's top softball rivalry at the moment, the coaches of the respective programs downplayed the significance of tonight's meeting, which determines the Class 5A, District 10 champ.
"We're both playing next week," said Chamberlain's Bobby Diez.
"It's just another game," added Panthers coach Melissa Sigmon.
Others may disagree.
Plant, which beat Hillsborough 10-0 in five innings in one district semifinal Thursday at Jefferson, is 20-5. Two of the losses were to Chamberlain.
The Chiefs, who defeated Robinson 10-3 in the nightcap, will enter the final 24-2, having lost only to a pair of nationally ranked squads.
Last year, these rivals split two regular-season games.
Chamberlain then beat Plant to claim the district, but Plant got revenge with a 5-1 victory in the region semifinals.
"They're good and we're good," Diez said.
Plant's win was the more convincing of the two Thursday. Pitcher Kayla Suskauer tossed three innings of no-hit ball while outfielder Erica Arcuri led the offensive attack with a triple.
Chamberlain's win didn't come as easily.
Credit the Knights for that.
Robinson (11-10) got strong pitching from Sarah Miller and scored three in the third to make it 5-3. But Chiefs ace Alexandra Hartshorn responded with 42/3 innings of solid relief to earn her 16th victory. At the plate, outfielder Angela Kafalas ripped two triples for Chamberlain, which finally broke things open with five runs in the sixth.
"I give (Robinson) all the credit," Diez said. "They played up."