PLANT CITY — Monday marked Hernando Christian's first appearance in a state semifinal softball game, but for five innings, the Lions performed like playoff veterans at Plant City Stadium.
The Lions scored first against heavily favored Eagle's View Academy.
Starting pitcher Courtney Riddle, a seventh-grader, held a potent Warriors lineup from erupting.
The Lions had Eagle's View, making its fourth straight semifinal appearance, on the ropes, but it was the Warriors who delivered the knockout punch.
Eagle's View capitalized on a multitude of miscues and errors from Hernando Christian in the final two innings to pull away for a 6-1 victory.
Hernando Christian (22-6) needed to play mistake-free to advance, but the Lions finished with six errors and a handful of wild pitches and passed balls.
"We did a lot of good things early in the ball game," Hernando Christian coach Ernie Chatman said. "They forced some mistakes later in the ball game, which credit to them, it kind of sped the game up a little bit."
With the score tied at 1 in the top of the sixth, the Warriors' Aaron Cribb led off the inning by singling to centerfield. Cribb advanced to third on a wild pitch and a sacrifice bunt, then scored what would prove to be the winning run on another wild pitch.
Eagle's View (20-7) made it 3-1 after Nicole Casaletto singled with two outs, stole second and came home on a throwing error.
In the seventh, Eagle's View continued to pile on. Two more Lions errors made it 5-1 before Kristen Brown's RBI double down the third-base line gave the Warriors a five-run cushion.
Hernando Christian went down 1-2-3 to end the game.
"When you start making a team make mistakes like that, you see their pitcher start to give up, you're starting to take control of the game," Eagle's View coach Willie Evans said. "Early on, they had control of the game. It seemed like every good hit we had was directly to someone."
Hernando Christian opened a 1-0 lead on the defending state champs in the third inning after Madeline Hanshaw bunted on base. She stole second and advanced to third on Riddle's sacrifice. Melissa Weaver lined a two-out single to leftfield to score Hanshaw.
That run was only the second Eagle's View has surrendered to a Class A school all season.
Warriors pitcher Sara Ketchie fanned 12 and struck out the side in the second, fifth and sixth innings.
"She could make it break, she could make it change speeds, and that's what you're looking at when you get to the next level, the next level in our own class," Lions catcher Heidi Riley said.
Riley was one of five seniors, along with Bryn Ortiz, Jackie Butler, Melissa Weaver and Hannah Griffith, making their final appearance in a Lions uniform.
"(This experience) was incredible. It was fun," Butler said. "And getting here was so much fun. And being with all the girls on the team, it's been so much fun."