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East Bay, Plant advance to title game

East Bay and Durant were tied at 2 in the seventh inning with two outs when Jessica Dupree, the East Bay's No. 7 hitter stepped up to the plate. Runners were on second and third, and a short single would win it.

Dupree lined the first pitch deep to left-centerfield to score pinch-runner Tiffany Goolsby for the 3-2 semifinal win in Class 5A, District 11 girls softball.

"I really felt a lot of pressure, because I knew if I made an out the whole team's season could be over," Dupree said. "All I wanted to do was get a good, solid single for the team and to feel better."

After delays for rain and lightning in the second game, Plant beat Armwood 6-1 to earn the berth opposite East Bay in the final at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

"In the seventh we were at the top of our lineup and our girls just didn't give up," East Bay coach Glenn Rodriguez. "Coming out of the dugout, each one said we are going to win coach. I have been in some good games before, but this was a real thriller."

Durant scored a run on two hits in the first inning. Melissa Hatmaker made the first hit and came home on a single by Erin O'Brien.

In the third inning, Hatmaker tripled to deep left to bring Lani Shaffer home.

Mandy Schuerman started the seventh for East Bay with a walk. Then Nancy Maxwell was hit by a pitch. After Staci Milton's sacrifice bunt, Heidi Wendell walked. Dori Locklear brought in the first run on a single and Lindsay McCaw brought in the second with a sacrifice before Dupree came to the plate.

Kristin Gonzalez started the game off for Plant with a solid double to the outfield, tried for third and scored when the throw went wild.

Jessie Braggins had two doubles, a single and three RBI for the Panthers.

"Tonight we accomplished our goal to make it to the final and earn a chance at the state championship," Plant coach Phillip Page said. "Tomorrow night we plan to play our best but mostly just enjoy playing the game. Tonight was the big one."

6A-5: Chamberlain, Gaither to meet

TAMPA _ Top-ranked Gaither cruised to an 8-0 win over King, and Chamberlain squeaked by Leto 1-0, setting up a championship game between the rivals.

"We split the season series with (Chamberlain)," Gaither coach Jerlyn Shaw said. "It's always a big rivalry."

In the first game, Chamberlain rightfielder Jennifer Abreu led off the third with a single to left-center and moved to second on Kylie Moord's groundout. With two outs, catcher Jennifer Shirley lined a hard shot to left, scoring Abreu.

"(Shirley) has been steady for me all year," Chamberlain coach Bob Diez said. "That's about her seventh game-winning RBI this year."

Gaither held a 2-0 lead until the sixth inning, then broke loose for six runs. With the bases loaded and one out, designated hitter Nikki Meadows tripled to deep right, keying the outburst.


4A-12: PHU's experience prevails

TAMPA _ In a game where the young met the younger, it was the older team that prevailed as Palm Harbor University won its first district title with a 10-0 win over Wharton.

PHU, in its second year, capitalized on four errors and exploded for 11 hits to defeat the first-year Wildcats. Both teams make their debut in the regional playoffs Tuesday.

"We'll look back on this in three years when we're playing for the state championship and say "This is where it all started,' " Wharton coach Julie Unger said. "I've got three more years with these kids."

PHU used a seven-run sixth inning to end the game by the 10-run rule. Mary Goldman's single drove in pinch-hitter Sandra Rossi with the final run.

"We started the year with the goal of winning districts, and we did," said PHU coach Chuck Poetter, who led Largo to four straight district titles before leaving to coach PHU. "But we're still young, and we have peaks and valleys. We can play like this every night, but we don't because we're young."


3A-10: TC edges Frostproof

MULBERRY _ Rena Rodriguez tied the score with a fifth-inning double, then scored the winning run on a wild pitch as Tampa Catholic defeated Frostproof 3-2 in the district championship game.

TC, the defending 3A state champion, hosts the Academy of the Holy Names-Berkeley Prep loser in Tuesday's region quarterfinal.

"It wasn't looking too good in the beginning (Frostproof led 2-0 in the third), but we found a way to win," TC coach Pete Wagner said. "This is the first time this season we've been challenged in a game that really meant something, so rising to that challenge was a good thing."

TC's Dena Glover threw a three-hitter and had three strikeouts. _ SPECIAL TO THE TIMES