LITHIA — With four starters, including three of the top four hitters in the batting order, missing from the final of the Spring Fling softball tournament, the remaining Plant Panthers did more than merely step up Saturday afternoon.
Leap up would be more precise.
With two outs and runners on second and third in the bottom of the seventh, 5-foot-10 freshman shortstop Ashley Cozart, a volleyball player, elevated to snag Marlie Braddy's high line drive to preserve the Panthers' 4-3 win against Bloomingdale.
Before Cozart's catch, Bloomingdale (14-8) had rallied for three runs in the inning on five singles.
"It was a great hit and a great play by (Cozart)," Bulls coach Mike Clamon said.
"Really, what I thought (after the ball was hit) was what our next move was going to be," Panthers coach Melissa Sigmon added. "And then, good thing we had a volleyball player playing shortstop."
The victory capped a 4-0 weekend by the Panthers (16-2), who played the final without, among others, Michigan State signee Sarah Bowling, Florida International signee Erika Arcuri and leadoff hitter Kaitlyn Steckel. Arcuri and Bowling, the Nos. 3 and 4 batters, respectively, left early to prepare for the prom; Steckel was in a soccer tournament.
"It says that we all just come together when we really need to," said sophomore left-hander Rose Yanger, who went the distance.
Few did more than Yanger, who earned a $500 scholarship check as her team's tournament MVP. She tossed a complete game in Friday's 3-0 quarterfinal win against Newsome, when Bowling hit two home runs, and scattered five hits in the first six innings against the Bulls.
Cozart led off the seventh with a triple and scored on Victoria Romaine's grounder for what would be the decisive run.
In the bottom of the inning, Bloomingdale's Kaelyn Castellanos delivered a two-out, two-run single and scored on Emily Shepherd's base hit to pull within a run. Braddy's line drive followed.
In the third-place game, East Bay's C.C. Rock tossed a four-hitter in a 7-1 win against Wharton. In the fifth-place contest, Newsome's Jennifer Owens hit an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh to lift the Wolves to a 5-4 win against Riverview.