NEW PORT RICHEY — Ernie Beck needed a cleanup crew in a hurry.
Bloomingdale had just scored a run in the top of the sixth. Runners were standing at second and third with just one out to pull within a run of River Ridge.
The Royal Knights coach walked to the pitcher's mound and called in his infield. Sarah Simon, Michelle McKonly and Jessica Tanbury provided a little comic relief to loosen up freshman pitcher Lakyn Shull. The impromptu meeting helped River Ridge to a 2-1 win over Bloomingdale. On Friday the Royal Knights (19-6) will host Newsome, a 10-5 winner over Land O'Lakes.
"They always crack jokes," Shull said. "They always make me smile somehow. …They knew this was a huge game if we wanted to keep going. I couldn't have done it by myself."
Some wondered why Shull had been called in to begin the sixth inning after starter Samantha Stahl limited the Bulls to two hits, no walks and four strikeouts through five innings. Beck simply didn't want to allow the top of Bloomingdale's lineup to see Stahl a fourth time.
Shull walked Bulls sophomore Alexa Lopez then gave up a single to senior Katelyn Molkenthin. After striking out Hannah Hensley, Bulls pitcher Kelly Kristen knocked a double to leftfield to score Lopez and climb within a run. Kristen finished with four strikeouts, no walks and allowed six hits for the Bulls (18-9).
Shull settled down to strike out the final two batters to finish with four strikeouts.