TAMPA — Despite giving up a run that put her team in a first-inning hole on Sunday, Chamberlain pitcher Olivia Dwyer didn't panic as she walked back to the dugout.
Even with the stakes raised against North Fort Myers in a Class 6A region final, the sophomore knew she could count on her offense to pick up the slack.
Right on cue, it delivered.
A two-run bottom of the first for the Chiefs — including a mammoth home run by Lauren Williams — provided a lift, and Dwyer stymied the Red Knights the rest of the way en route to a 3-1 victory to give Chamberlain its first state final four berth since 2012 when it won the 7A state title.
"I try not to let the little things get to me," said Dwyer, who yielded five hits with two walks and struck out five. "It was still early in the game, and I knew my team would come back to help me."
Katelyn Kelly singled to lead off for North Fort Myers (22-6) and scored on a fielder's choice.
But the Chiefs (23-3) quickly squashed any confidence that the Red Knights gained in the bottom of the first as Williams crushed the second pitch from Mackenzie Peterson over the centerfield wall to tie the score 1-1.
Chamberlain took the lead on Elizabeth Diaz's fielder's choice after singles by Hope Hernandez and Jenna Brownell. But longtime coach Bob Diez was frustrated that his team stranded a runner in scoring position, one of six in the game.
"Lauren picked us up and got us going," Diez said. "We made this much harder. I'll give (North Fort Myers) credit, but … we should knock in runs better than that."
Brownell provided an insurance run in the third on a sacrifice bunt by Kelsi Mays.
"This is a really young team and this is a big accomplishment," Diez said. "You always hope you do this, but they've really worked their butts off and they've come up big."
7A: Durant eliminated
Durant's quest for a fourth trip to state since 2002 fizzled in Sunday's rough offensive outing at Harmony. The Cougars' season ended with a 3-0 loss to the Longhorns in a Class 7A region final delayed two days by rain.
"We just made a couple mistakes, and they took advantage," Durant coach Matt Carter said.
Freshman pitcher and Florida Atlantic commit Sloan Hammons kept Durant (20-9) in the game before Harmony (27-2) came through with a three-run fifth inning. Two Cougar errors helped fuel the barrage and secure the Longhorns' third trip to state in the last four years.
Even then, Durant didn't fold.
The Cougars put runners at first and second to start the sixth but couldn't capitalize.
"We just could not get it across the plate," Carter said.
Harmony pitcher Aleshia Ocasio — a Florida signee — handed the Cougars their third shutout loss of the season. Madison Farrell's double was Durant's only extra-base hit.
Carter said a disappointing end in a close game shouldn't overshadow a season in which Durant toppled Strawberry Crest and Plant City to win the district title on its way to the final eight.
"I don't think anybody expected us to get out of districts," Carter said. "We proved a lot of people wrong there."
Matt Baker, Times staff writer