Sunday, January 21, 2018

Region softball: East Lake barely holds on

EAST LAKE — Aliyah Andrews has been described as a game changer because of her speed.

The East Lake sophomore centerfielder, who already has orally committed to LSU, went 2-for-5 with two steals and two runs in Thursday's Class 7A region quarterfinal against Bradenton Braden River.

But her right arm produced the pivotal play in an 8-5 victory.

Down 8-3, the Pirates scored once and had the bases loaded with one out. Sarah Crawford hit a ball that dropped in front of Andrews. One runner scored, and another was heading home when Andrews threw a rocket to the catcher for a tag at the plate.

The Eagles then sealed the game by inducing a flyout from Jess McKinnon.

"I was a little mad that I didn't dive and catch that ball," Andrews said. "I had some trouble getting a grip on the ball. Then I just chucked it. Praise the Lord that I was able to make a great throw and such a big play to help us win."

Through two innings, it appeared the Eagles (16-7) wouldn't need a game-saving throw. They capitalized on walks and defensive miscues to score three runs in the first and five in the second.

But the Eagles also stranded 10 runners.

After early jitters, Braden River settled down. The bats came alive in the final three innings as the Pirates scored three in the fifth.

In the seventh, East Lake starter Diana Rayder was wearing down. The plan was for her to pitch to McKinnon. If she reached, Maddie Bertisch would come in. Rayder bore down to get a flyout from McKinnon, who was 2-for-3 before that.

"That was a huge out for Diana because (McKinnon) is such a good hitter," East Lake coach Kristie Delk said. "But the play of the game came from Aliyah. Without that throw, it would have been a completely different game."

7A: Cougars shut out

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Right-hander Amanda Rak struck out 12 and did not allow a hit in the last four innings as Lakewood Ranch beat Countryside 2-0.

Freshman Kaylee Misiti provided the offensive spark banging out three hits and driving in the go-ahead run with a two-out single in the sixth to break a scoreless tie.

After an infield error and a walk, Countryside (20-8) had runners on second and third in the sixth inning, and Rak ended the frame with a strikeout She had three strikeouts in the third and two in each of the last two innings.

The Mustangs (21-7) added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Kahlie Bickerstaff doubled to drive in Misiti with two outs.

Countryside had four hits and only one extra-base hit, a double in the second with two outs.

5A: Another first for Spartans

A week after securing its first playoff berth, Lakewood came through with its first postseason win, beating host Robinson 13-3 in the Class 5A region quarterfinals.

The Spartans will travel to Bradenton Bayshore in Tuesday's region semifinals.

Against the Knights, Lakewood jumped out to a 4-0 after two innings. In the sixth, the Spartans broke the game open with eight runs. Mariah Watts went 3-for-4 with two doubles to lead Lakewood. Other big hits for the Spartans came on homer by Mara Brody and a triple by Andrea Vargas.

Watts also finished with 10 strikeouts.

"We played really well," Lakewood coach Edie Shankle said. "It's exciting to keep this going and have another shot at Bayshore in the next round."

5A: Falcons ousted

BROOKSVILLE — After returning most of its roster from last season's region final appearance, Hernando came into this postseason with something to prove. The journey began with a 3-1 victory over Dunedin at Tom Varn Park.

Courtney Riddle (26-1) was masterful on the mound for the home team, tossing a complete-game three-hitter with no earned runs, no walks and three strikeouts. And although the Leopards (26-2) committed three errors, one of which resulted in the Falcons' lone run, the senior ace controlled the tempo of the game.

"(Courtney) did a good job of working ahead and locating her pitches," coach Kevin Bittinger said. "They have some pretty decent hitters and she kept them off-balance, just like she's done all year."

Riddle's counterpart, Dunedin ace Aubrey Ehlers (16-6), was almost as good against the Hernando lineup. The hurler had only one shaky inning, when the Leopards had four straight two-out hits to score three runs in the third.

Ehlers retired Kaylee Frascatore and Lauren Moore to start the inning before No. 9 hitter Erika Lewis slapped a single. Megan Lane followed by lining a two-strike pitch back up the middle for a single. Danielle Harvey knocked in Lewis with a single, and senior captain Tana McDaniel capped the scoring with a two-run double in the right-centerfield gap.

After a hit by pitch and an error, Dunedin (17-7) scored when Central Florida State College signee Tiona Hill hit a bloop single over first base. Hill will join Riddle at the collegiate level next season, with both signing to the same school.

Hernando advances to Tuesday's region semifinal against River Ridge. The Leopards and Royal Knights split their two games this season.

Correspondent Derek J. LaRiviere contributed to this report, which uses information from the Herald.

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