CLEARWATER — Palm Harbor University's Madison O'Brien thrives in the spotlight.
The way the junior shortstop sees it, the more intense the situation, the greater the payoff.
Two days earlier, O'Brien keyed the Hurricanes' rally against Tarpon Springs in the Class 5A, District 9 semifinals with a two-run triple to the gap in right-center.
Facing similar circumstances Thursday in the district championship against East Lake, O'Brien delivered again, hitting a two-run double to left-center to spark the a 3-0 title-clinching victory.
"I like the pressure," O'Brien said. "I don't really think of it as pressure. I think of it as an opportunity to help the team out."
After Lindsey Fenlon singled in the game's first run in the fifth inning, O'Brien stepped in with two runners in scoring position. The FSU commitment smacked the game's only extra-base hit to score Fenlon and Katie Powell (running for Nadia Rahman) for the Hurricanes (22-4).
"I was just trying to get a base hit," O'Brien said. "Lindsey stepped up big in her at-bat. … I just wanted to come up and do the same thing she did."
Except for the fifth, Hayley Davis held the Hurricanes lineup in check. Similarly, PHU starter Taylor Sabol kept the Eagles (18-9) off balance by mixing speeds.
East Lake threatened in the fourth with runners at second and third, but Sabol got Davis to strike out looking. In the fifth, East Lake loaded the bases with one out but failed to score after Sarah Schutz flew out to shallow center and Sara Hollenbeck (running for Kelsey Oonk) was thrown out at home trying to tag from third.
"Taylor's a freshman that's battled nerves. She's a freshman that has overcome a lot of stuff," PHU coach Chuck Poetter said. "Circumstances dictated that we put her in. If she didn't come through, we wouldn't be where we are. She's a big part of the season."
In the seventh, East Lake's Amanda Weaver and Alicia Welsh each reached on errors with one out. Sabol, however, got Alyssa Weaver and Schutz to pop out to O'Brien at short.