CLEARWATER — After five innings on side-by-side softball fields, both No. 1 seed Palm Harbor University and No. 2 seed Pinellas Park were losing.
In the bottom of the sixth, however, the Hurricanes (21-4) rallied to overcome their deficit, defeated Tarpon Springs 6-4 and reserving a spot in the district championship game. The Patriots (23-3) were unable to dig out of a deep hole and fell to No. 3 seed East Lake (18-8) 8-2.
The Eagles had lost two of three games to the Patriots already this season, but coach Mike Estes said this team effort was different.
"We couldn't leave runners on base and we needed clutch hitting," he said. "We got it tonight. Once we had the lead, we worked on what we wanted to do."
Facing Patriots ace Sara Nevins, East Lake jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning and was ahead 7-0 before Pinellas Park got on the scoreboard. Estes said his offense was patient and confident but at the same time wasn't timid facing the Patriots pitcher. He said Nevins wasn't able to settle in, and that was a big plus.
Abby Hess had three hits for the Eagles, including a double. Winning pitcher Hayley Davis tossed a five-hitter. Tatum McDowell had an RBI double for Pinellas Park.
Across the sidewalk, Palm Harbor U. trailed Tarpon Springs 4-3 when Maddie O'Brien came up with two runners on. O'Brien smacked a line drive for a two-run triple then scored on an overthrow.
"I just wanted a single to keep the rally going," O'Brien said. "When it jumped off the bat, that was an awesome feeling."
Taylor Sabol earned the win with a five-hitter. Jen Hunter led Tarpon Springs (14-10) with a double and a single.