BROOKSVILLE — The last time Hernando Christian ran into Seffner Christian's pitching staff, the Lions' bats were booming on the way to a district title.
HCA didn't find it so easy trying to advance past Friday's Class A region semifinal.
The Lions held off multiple threats to defeat the Crusaders 3-2 and reach the region final for the second consecutive season.
Seffner Christian (11-11) nearly took the lead in the top of the third after starting pitcher Jena Botto broke up Courtney Riddle's no-hit bid with a leadoff single. Courtesy runner Brooke Boyce stole second and was waved home on a single by Kelsey Schubel. But Lions centerfielder Brianna Hogan made the throw home for the second out.
Then Savannah Busciglio singled, and Seffner coach Greg Fawbush sent the runner. This time, leftfielder Heather Drummond threw Schubel out at home.
The Lions (20-4) took advantage of the Crusaders' lack of patience in the next inning. In the bottom of the fourth, the Lions scored three on two errors by second baseman Sabrina Whiting. After a leadoff single from Audrey Allen, Whiting mishandled a double-play ball at second then had an errant throw. That put runners on second and third with no outs.
The next three batters (Ashley McKay, Drummond and Kaitlyn Lowe) knocked in a run each for a 3-0 lead.
"They had good positioning," HCA coach Ernie Chatman said of his team, "but give the pitching credit, too. Positioning doesn't matter if you don't locate the pitches."
Riddle (complete game, four strikeouts, one walk) gave up one earned run, and with the game on the line in the seventh, she had a runner on second with no outs because of a two-base error. But the eighth-grader struck out two of the next three batters.
"We've had errors in the past," Riddle said. "I just wanted to pitch strikes so I could get some ground balls and get out of it."