ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas Park held off a last-inning rally by Cocoa Beach to win the Northside Christian Mustang Invitational 5-4 Saturday night.
The Minutemen jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first. Patriots pitcher Serena Mitchell nearly escaped a bases-loaded jam when she struck out the next two batters. But a bloop single by Briana Crowder drove in two runs.
The Patriots scored five runs in the bottom of the second inning, keyed by Tatum McDowell's triple to left. Jordan Bennett had a two-run double as well.
Down three runs in the top of the seventh, Cocoa Beach brought the tying run to the plate after two consecutive singles. Jennifer Conrad hit to the shortstop, who got the lead runner at third. After Mitchell plunked Crowder to load the bases, Kristin McPeak doubled to score two, but Crowder was called out at third. A wild pitch by Mitchell put the tying run at third, but she got pinch hitter Kiera Hastings to ground out to first, giving the Patriots the win.
The game was Mitchell's first full outing in nearly two months, after an early season injury. She pitched five consecutive scoreless innings and struck out eight.
Patriots coach Shane DeMartino said he was more inclined to remove Mitchell in the first inning, when she walked two of the first three batters, than in the final tense half inning. Even with the bases loaded in the seventh, DeMartino said he ultimately decided: "It's hers, let her finish it out. She trusted her defense."
In the third-place game, Tampa Catholic beat Northside Christian 8-3.