TAMPA — As Gaither and Sickles continued to trade scoreless innings Thursday, it became obvious that the showdown between Class 6A, District 7 rivals was likely going down to the last pitch.
And that was the case when Gaither's Shelby Heiser smacked the last pitch into leftfield, with the tying run at third base, for the game's final out. The Gryphons outlasted the Cowboys, claiming a 2-1 victory that has the rivals tied atop the district.
"This puts us in the driver's seat," said Sickles coach Phil Giarrizzo, whose team plays at Gaither on March 24. "But we still have to go to their place. It's a tough district, but defense and pitching was the difference for us."
After four scoreless innings, Gaither (8-3, 6-1) struck first when Jayde Slimak scored from first on a Heiser double. Slimak had reached base on an infield error.
But Sickles (11-3, 6-1) overcame the 1-0 deficit a half-inning later when Ashli Goff scored on a Kristen McGrath passed ball and narrowly slid underneath the tag of catcher Morgan Litchfield.
Sickles would make its biggest play of the night an inning later.
After singles by Alyssa Hobday and Nikki Hall, Courtney Goff lined a two-out single to left to score Hobday for the eventual winning run.
Courtney Goff had three hits and a stolen base. Hobday had two hits and Alyese Stapf pitched a complete game, striking out four.
Kristen McGrath and Jeanell Saylor each had two hits for the Cowboys, who saw multiple opportunities slip away.
"It shouldn't have come down to that," Gaither coach Laura Wolf said of her team having runners on second and third and not scoring in the seventh inning. "We had the bases loaded twice in the game (and did not score). We need to make adjustments sooner and not leave outcomes to the discretion of others."