TAMPA — As Bloomingdale and Freedom battled into the sixth of a scoreless game Wednesday — with a district final and region berth on the line — just one hit would make the difference.
Bulls senior Kristen Kelly was pitching one of her best games of the season, and it was a freshman who gave her that hit.
Kaelyn Castellanos' triple to right-center led off the sixth and made her the first Bloomingdale baserunner to reach third. She scored on a throwing error one batter later, giving the Bulls a 1-0 win in the Class 5A, District 8 semifinals.
With the victory, No. 2 seed Bloomingdale (18-7) earned a rematch with top-seeded Newsome (17-7), a team it lost to twice in the regular season, at 7:30 tonight. Newsome beat Armwood (7-9) 8-1 in the other semifinal.
"My old heart can't take this kind of game," said Mike Clamon, in his 15th season as Bulls coach. "That was the closest game we had all year."
Kelly (10-5) held Freedom (15-7) to two hits and retired the final eight batters she faced. She stranded six baserunners, including four in scoring position.
"I was focused," Kelly said. "It's my senior year, and I want to win districts and get as far as we can. We have a lot of potential to get far."
In the first semifinal, another freshman, Newsome shortstop Nicollette Levine was 3-for-4 with a triple, RBI and three runs scored. Rightfielder Jenn Owens and Meghan Schultz drove in two runs for the Wolves, who qualified for regions for the second straight season.
"We've still got to pick up the pace," Newsome coach Jessi Kowal said. "If we're going to peak at any time during the season, it's got to be now."
TRINITY — Gaither wasted little effort to get a shot at defending its district title.
The Cowboys defeated Sickles 9-1 thanks to a quick start and timely hitting throughout and limiting the Gryphons (14-11) to one hit. They'll face Countryside, 2-1 winners against Mitchell in the second game.
The Cowboys won the district title last season over Countryside. The teams met once more in the Class 6A region final, where Countryside won 4-3.
"They came in focused, and it kind of avenged the last loss we had against them at their field," Gaither coach Al Alcala said. "We made some mental mistakes there, and it cost us the game. So we realized we had to really work hard and stay focused all seven innings."
Gaither sophomore Megan McGrath knocked a one-out grand slam over the leftfield fence for a 4-0 lead in the top of the first.
The Cowboys (21-6) spent the next few innings piecing together some more offense while keeping Sickles' bats quiet. Sickles' lone run came in the third when Courtney Goff scored on an error to make it 7-1.
Izzy Gould, Times staff writer