PLANT CITY — Give East Bay ace Kayla Cox a one-run lead, and it typically stands up like a Marine during inspection.
But in the season's biggest game Wednesday, the Indians needed their rally caps as much as Cox's rise ball.
Trailing by a run, the top-seeded Indians (18-7-1) staged a two-out, four-run rally in the bottom of the sixth for a 5-2 comeback win over No. 5 Durant (12-11) in the Class 5A, District 8 semifinals.
East Bay faces No. 3 Plant City (17-7) in Friday's 7 p.m. title game.
Wednesday, it faced elimination. Taking a perfect game — and 1-0 lead — into the fifth, Cox surrendered a leadoff infield hit to Carly Wolff before fanning the next two batters. Durant's Jordan Lafave then tripled to score Wolff and came home on a throwing error.
"When we went down 2-1, I looked at them and said, 'This is it ladies,' " said Indians coach Glenn Rodriguez, who had his Nos. 3, 4 and 5 batters due up in the sixth.
" 'We've got to pour it on now. If we're going to do it, we've got to do it now.' "
As if on cue, the rally commenced.
Catcher C.C. Rock drew a one-out walk after a couple of illegal-pitch calls against Durant's Lauren Wolfe, who entered the sixth with a two-hitter. Then with two outs, junior Victoria Cooper smashed a triple to center to tie the score.
Freshman Aliceson Holliday followed with a go-ahead single up the middle. Two more runs scored on an error.
"(The comeback) shows character," Rodriguez said, "but Durant played a great game."
In the first semifinal, Plant City earned a degree of validation — not to mention a playoff berth — with a 3-1 win over No. 2 Newsome.
The Raiders shut out the Wolves earlier this month, but Newsome ace and FSU signee Bailey Schinella didn't pitch that game.
On Wednesday, Raiders junior catcher Taylor Storey went 2-for-2 off Schinella with three RBIs. As an encore to her first-inning RBI-double, Storey hit a two-run home run — her sixth of the year – in the sixth.
Classmate Mackenzie Audas, meantime, silenced Newsome's normally potent bats with a sparkling performance (four hits, 15 strikeouts, one walk). Audas escaped a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the fourth with consecutive strikeouts.
"I wanted it more than probably any game we've ever played," Storey said. "I really wanted to prove we can beat them with Schinella on the mound."
Joey Knight can be reached at [email protected]