NEW PORT RICHEY — After working out of a jam in the fifth inning, Land O'Lakes pitcher Michelle Bradley ran to the first-base line, huddled with her teammates, and asked them for more runs.
They gave her one.
Maybe she knew something her teammates didn't.
It turned out that run was exactly what the Gators needed, surviving a furious River Ridge rally to hold on to a 5-4 district victory Wednesday night.
Despite the victory, the Gators (8-0, 5-0 5A-7) appeared devastated afterward.
They led 4-0 after the first inning, and 5-0 after fulfilling Bradley's request in the sixth.
But then the hits started to fall in for the Royal Knights, who scored four times in their final at-bat and had runners on second and third before Bradley wriggled out of the near-collapse.
Coach Jamie Martin called it humbling.
"I expected a lot more," she said. "We left a lot of runners on base."
But so did River Ridge, which had its leadoff batter reach base in the first before getting picked off then had its first two runners reach in the second before three straight strikeouts by Bradley.
In the seventh, though, the Royal Knights — 7-2 with both losses coming to the Gators — broke through.
Ashley Garland led off with a double. After a groundout, Madison Morris singled, and an error of Sarah Simon's popup made it 5-1.
Jessica Tamburri and Lakyn Shull singled, and Land O'Lakes centerfielder Loren Smith saved another run — and maybe the game — by charging in to snare Brianna Rish's liner.
With two outs Ana Alberti singled to make it 5-3, and a wild pitch by Bradley made it 5-4.
Bradley bore down though, notching her ninth strikeout for the win.
"When you start swinging at strikes and being patient and putting the ball in play (that's what happens)," said River Ridge coach Ernie Beck. "It was just boom-boom-boom and the hits just started falling."
The Gators, however, had built enough of a cushion to survive.
Sam Adamo one-hopped the first pitch of the game off the fence for a triple, and scored on Kasey Murray's hit. After Bradley singled and stole second, Smith made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly and Jess Austin cracked a two-run homer.