TAMPA — Enslaved to superstition, Gaither sophomore Morgan Litchfield has hosted sleepovers for twin teammates Kristen and Megan McGrath on the eve of the Cowboys' past two victories. Thanks to Litchfield's bat, another slumber party is slated for Thursday night.
Litchfield's 210-foot, two-run homer to dead center in the bottom of the sixth inning propelled the Cowboys (19-10) to a 2-0 victory Tuesday against Bradenton Manatee (18-8) in the Class 5A region quarterfinals.
Gaither, the No. 4 seed in last week's District 9 tournament, hosts Sickles on Friday. Per their win-streak ritual, the Cowboys players and coaches will wear exactly what they've worn the past three games.
"It's believing," said Coach Al Alcala, who watched a defense that was suspect earlier in the year commit one error Tuesday. "I told them the best gift a coach can ever give you is believing in you, and all you have to do is believe in yourselves."
Preceding Litchfield's winner was a brisk pitchers' duel between Manatee's Casey Craft and Alabama-Birmingham signee Kristen McGrath, who took a no-hitter into the sixth and finished with a two-hitter.
Craft had allowed only one hit entering the sixth, when No. 2 batter Shelby Heiser worked out of an 0-2 count to draw a one-out walk. After Megan McGrath struck out and Heiser stole second, Litchfield crowded the plate and launched a high, outside 2-0 pitch for her second homer of the year.
"Coming into that I just knew I had to get a base hit because I knew (Alcala) would send (Heiser) home," Litchfield said. "I was just thinking line-drive base hit and I got a hold of it."