GIBSONTON — Just as it has all season, East Bay relied on strong defense and the right arm of pitcher Kayla Cox to defeat Plant City 2-0 in Friday's Class 5A region semifinals.
Cox scattered four hits and worked out of several jams to record the shutout. She walked the bases loaded in the first inning but recovered to strike out Kellsey Bruner and end the threat.
"They've seen me pitch four times this year, so they know me really well," Cox said. "I just focused and took it pitch by pitch. I knew the defense had my back."
East Bay (21-7-1) scored twice despite tallying one hit. Both runs were unearned and came on Raiders errors. East Bay's Christina Caisse reached on a single and scored in the fourth, and Nicole Kennedy walked and scored in the fifth.
"The three errors were the key to the game. We thought if we were able to put the ball on the ground, they would boot it," East Bay coach Glenn Rodriguez said. "Even though we didn't hit the ball, our defense was stronger, and we didn't tighten up out there."
UCF commit Mackenzie Audas pitched well for the Raiders (19-9), giving up one hit and no earned runs over six innings. Chelsea Hanks smacked a double for Plant City that nearly cleared the leftfield wall and tied the score in the fifth.
"These teams have some of the best pitchers in the state; either team could have won, but it's too late for us to dwell on this because now we're done," Plant City coach Heidi Kouveras said.