It was exactly how Hernando softball coach Ernie Chatman had taught his team to play. It just wasn't what he expected to see happen.
A bunt, followed by a steal, then a hit to score the run _ fundamental softball. Wednesday night Hernando (8-4, 4-1) used those basic elements to beat Crystal River 2-1, avenging an earlier loss and creating a tie for the district lead.
"The speed helped and then the clutch hit," Chatman said. "That's the way it's supposed to happen, how you draw it up. It just usually doesn't ever happen that way."
It started when Chatman turned in the lineup cards with Bell batting leadoff to utilize her speed.
Leading off the sixth, the senior catcher proved him right, beating out a bunt and stealing her third base of the game to get into scoring position.
Following a strikeout by Pirate pitcher Lanna Hough, Audrey Friedland connected for a double to centerfield, scoring Bell and giving Hernando a 1-0 lead.
The next Leopard batter, Casey Ellis hit a single to score Friedland before Hough got two fly outs to end the inning.
In Crystal River's half of the seventh, B.J. Snow singled, advanced to second on Hough's single and went to third on a passed ball before scoring on Rachel Bruns' sacrifice to the mound.
But that was all the Pirates (8-3, 5-1) could muster. Ellis got Amy Embree to pop to short and ended the game with a called third strike for her fifth strikeout.
"Our defense and pitching were very solid tonight," Crystal River coach Laura Wingate said. "In the seventh we got one run in but didn't execute on a bunt when we needed a bunt."
Hernando was kept in the game thanks to a couple of brilliant plays by Bell and first baseman Melissa Gant.
In the third inning, with one out and a Pirate on third, Ellis got Stephanie Hampton to hit back to the mound. When she threw to first, Missy Calder broke for home but Gant spun and threw a bullet to Bell, who blocked the plate to complete the double play.
In the sixth, Calder singled and advanced on a sacrifice and moved to third on Heidi Frederick's single. When Frederick was ruled safe at first, Calder broke for home only to be cut down again by the Gant-to-Bell combination, ending the inning.
DUNEDIN _ Pasco scored four runs in the second inning against Countryside in the semifinals of the Dunedin Spring Tournament and six in the sixth to defeat Countryside 13-3. The Pirates advance to meet host Dunedin in the final Friday night.
DeShawn Southward led the Pirate attack early as he scored his first two times up and drove in two runs with a double in the third inning. A. J. Jones, Byron Durdan and Roland Ramerize each scored at least two runs apiece.
The Pirates jumped on Cougar pitcher Trevor Hall for most of the damage. On the other side, Kendale Antoine looked solid with his lone mistake coming in the second inning as Hall hit a solo shot to start the inning.
Pasco improved to 14-2 and will be looking for its first tournament championship at Dunedin.
Dunedin defeated Northeast 4-3, despite getting just three hits.
Coach Greg Nichols, who will retire after 27 years with the Falcons, will be playing for his 11th tournament title.
_ ERIC VICIAN