PALM HARBOR — During each of Palm Harbor University's three state title runs, Hurricanes coach Chuck Poetter estimated that there was at least one play during the playoffs where the Hurricanes got lucky.
A play that could have ended the season prematurely instead buoyed the Hurricanes toward immortality.
Tuesday in a 1-0 region quarterfinal loss at home to Plant, the Hurricanes found out what happens when luck, and hits, run out.
PHU (22-5) played flawless defense. Freshman pitcher Taylor Sabol allowed Plant baserunners to reach scoring position in five of seven innings but held the Panthers (21-6) to one run. PHU created scoring opportunities in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings.
The Hurricanes had chances to persevere. They just couldn't catch that timely break.
"We didn't play bad. None of the kids did anything wrong. It's just, I don't know. Offensively, we weren't here," Poetter said. "I can't explain it. It's not from lack of effort or lack of caring or lack of heart or anything else."
To illustrate Poetter's point, look at the Hurricanes' final at-bats in the seventh inning. Centerfielder Laura Herndon, who struck out her first two times at the plate, scorched the first pitch from Plant's Kayla Suskauer (12-6) to the base of the wall in right field for a standup double.
After Kaitlyn Santo struck out on a 2-2 changeup, Courtney Pavlock chopped a slow blooper over Suskauer's head and in front of Plant second baseman Kaitlyn Steckel to reach safely.
With runners on second and third, one out and Courtney O'Connell batting, Poetter called for a suicide squeeze that would have easily scored Herndon, but O'Connell's bunt rolled inches foul.
Later in the at-bat, O'Connell ripped a deep drive to leftfield that had plenty of distance to clear the outfield wall but hooked foul. Then a wild pitch got by catcher Ashley Schnitzler, who pounced on the loose ball before Herndon could dart home.
"The catcher did a nice job because when she turned around to get to the ball, I couldn't see the ball. I couldn't send (Herndon) without seeing the ball," said Poetter, who coaches third base. "By the time I did see the ball, (Schnitzler) was already halfway back there. If I saw that ball get away initially, yeah she would have scored the run.
"But again, we were not the fortunate ones today. We've won because we're fortunate, and today we just didn't win because we weren't fortunate."
O'Connell eventually struck out, and Suskauer fanned Nadia Rahman to end the game and the Hurricanes' hopes of a deep playoff run.