GIBSONTON — It was a risky move at the time, but it looked like pure genius by the end of the game.
Trailing 2-1 to East Bay in the fifth inning, Plant City coach Heidi Kouveras pulled starting pitcher Megan Still — with the bases loaded and no outs. She brought in freshman Mackenzie Audas, who promptly responded with three straight strike outs.
That scenario kept Plant City close enough to add a run later and go on to win 3-2 in extra innings in the semifinals. Plant City (14-3) moves on to the finals to play top-seeded Durant, which topped Riverview 2-1 in the other semifinal game to advance.
"I was thinking to just change it up," Kouveras said of the pitching move. "It was a gutsy move, but we were close to losing, so I thought why not go for it?"
The move helped prolong the season for the Raiders, who tied the game at two in the sixth when Allie Goodrich scored off an Audus double to deep left-centerfield. Neither team scored in the seventh, sending the game to extra innings.
After East Bay (15-10) failed to score in the top of the eighth, Plant City captured the win after an Indian error allowed a baserunner, followed by three straight singles that eventually scored Plant City's Analisse Coffee.
Durant (21-5), meanwhile, captured its berth in the district final and region tournament after one big inning lifted the Cougars past Riverview.
Durant pitcher Sara DeMuth was solid, limiting the Sharks to just one hit. DeMuth also got a key single in the fourth inning, which was followed by Kelsey Horton's home run.
Riverview had taken a brief lead earlier in the inning on a home run by Brittany Yates.
Class 2A, District 9
Terps cruise into final
Top-seeded Tampa Prep scored seven runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to pull away from Calvary Christian 13-1.
The Warriors got on the board first with a run in the top of the first. Tampa Prep answered with two runs in the bottom half of the inning and three more in the second.
The Terrapins extended their lead to 6-1 in the third inning.