NEW PORT RICHEY — Melissa Moore watched the fly ball from the on-deck circle. It should have scored a run and put her team in front, but a base-running blunder kept things tied, so with two outs Moore came to the plate hoping to change that.
On a night where River Ridge managed to hit its hardest balls foul, Moore blooped one into fair territory. It scored two runs to put River Ridge on the road to a 4-1 victory over Nature Coast in a Class 5A quarterfinal Thursday.
Moore's single to left in the fifth inning scored Madisyn Palmer and Morgan Tolle to break a 1-all tie, and her hustle to second base forced an errant throw that let her come all the way around to score as the Royal Knights (26-3) broke open a tight game.
"There's always extra pressure with two outs," said Moore, River Ridge's third baseman, "but I just try to treat it like any at-bat."
Moore's hit extended Ernie Beck's coaching career. The longtime River Ridge coach is retiring at the end of the year. But he knew when Nature Coast (22-5) took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on Chyloe Gonzalez's triple and a sacrifice fly by Courtney David it probably wasn't going to be enough to send him fishing and golfing.
"We lose 1-0? That's just not us," Beck said.
For a while, though, it looked possible. NCT freshman Alyssa Gonzalez befuddled the Knights through four innings with her off-speed stuff, but she gave up a leadoff single to No. 9 hitter Allysa Lyons to start the fifth. After a sacrifice bunt walked Palmer and Tolle to load the bases, it prompting a pitching change.
Freshman Abbey Primavera's first pitch in relief was wild, tying the score. Makenzie Goluba then hit a fly ball that should have scored a run, but didn't, and Moore made it a moot point with her winner.
Goluba, who had a streak of 26 straight scoreless innings snapped, retired the last six batters, two on a nifty leaping catch by shortstop Kenzi Maguire, who threw to first to double off the runner. She allowed three hits and struck out five.
The win sets up a third meeting with Hernando in the region semifinals. The teams split their previous two games.
John C. Cotey can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JohnnyHomeTeam.