ST. PETERSBURG — In the first inning of Tuesday's region final between St. Petersburg Catholic and McKeel Academy, leadoff batter Bonnie Joyner singled to start the Barons offense.
When Amanda Kolonick bunted Joyner to second base, the Barons looked to be well on their way to scoring the game's first run, until Joyner was promptly picked off second after taking too wide a turn around the base. It was that kind of day for the Barons.
McKeel starting pitcher Cheyenne Benson kept the SPC batters off-balance, save for one mistake in the sixth inning when she gave up a two-run home run to Barons pitcher Chloe Saganowich, and the Wildcats broke the game open with three runs in the sixth to win 7-2 and advance to the state semis for the third time in five years.
The Barons (23-4) had their leadoff batter reach base in each of the first three innings but failed to take advantage.
"You've got to play the game, and we didn't do it today," SPC coach Tom Fabian said. "We didn't hit well enough, and we didn't play well enough.
McKeel (16-13) scored the game's first run in the fourth inning on a RBI base hit from Casey Jones. Emily Kennelley sent a grounder to second that plated one more run in the fifth.
In the sixth, Emily Sanders hit a double to the gap in left-centerfield that drove home two runs and Taylor Collins brought Sanders home on a deep sacrifice fly.
"I guess the green light came on when we got beat in the district championship game," McKeel coach Larry Harvey said, referring to the Wildcats 11-1 loss to Frostproof. "I told them, 'One game at a time. Let's go out and get after it.' And they have."
Plant falls short
Plant had its chances Tuesday night. But every time the door opened slightly for the Panthers, Venice pitcher Stephanie Sullivan slammed it shut, and the result was a 1-0 loss on the road that kept Plant from making its first final four appearance in eight years.
Plant (23-5) twice had runners on second and third. Another time, it loaded the bases. But Sullivan, who entered with 261 strikeouts, worked her way out of every jam as the Indians improved to 30-0.
Keith Niebuhr, Times staff writer