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Inverness pushes Naples to the brink before falling 1-0

State playoff games are usually a casual affair for the fans of the Greater Naples Braves.

Rarely challenged, and never beaten in the last seven years, Naples fans aren't used to sweating out wins against teams like the Inverness Senior All-Stars.

Yet Saturday's matchup in the first round of the senior softball state tournament provided one of those rare moments.

Inverness plays Bloomingdale today at 2 p.m. in the losers' bracket. The team, which has clobbered its opponents by a margin of 75-7 in the six games leading to the state tournament, gave Naples its first scare of the year, pushing defending national champs to extra innings in a tight 1-0 loss.

Inverness starter Gina Reynolds gave up her first run in all-star play in the bottom of the eighth inning, loading the bases on two hits and a hit batsman, then walking home the winning run.

"This is the way it happens, but we'll be back and we'll be playing on Tuesday," Inverness manager Mike Reynolds said, alluding to Tuesday's championship game. "If we're going to lose, we want to lose like that."

Inverness was tested often, but always seemed to find a way out when Naples put a runner (or two) in scoring position. Naples led off the fourth with consecutive base hits, but Reynolds and the defense were able to stifle the rally, recording three straight outs, the first on a pickoff at third.

"My philosophy is if we don't give up a run, we won't lose," said Naples manager Robert Iamurri, who has produced 10 national titles for the Braves and also coached Naples High to its ninth state title this year. "We focus on pitching and defense and we figure we'll score later.

"But (Reynolds) did a good job. I don't want her to think she lost this game. She did a great job keeping them in it."

Inverness had some trouble finding its hitting groove against Naples' hard-throwing starter Marissa Moschel. The 15-year-old right-hander, a starter for Naples High last year, had a perfect game though five, but began to falter in the sixth when Inverness made it lone upset bid.

Kim Richards led off the sixth with a sharply hit ball to right and advanced to third on Julie Hodson's bunt single. Hodson eventually swiped second, giving Inverness runners in scoring position with no outs.

Yet the moment, and the chance at a monumental upset, slipped away from Inverness, which ended up stranding both runners. Moschel relieved some of the pressure with her 10th strikeout (she finished with 12) before two unsuccessful bunt attempts killed the rally.