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Griffith keys rally as Seminole wins

After making an error in the third inning of Friday's Class 5A, District 9 tournament final against Clearwater, Laura Griffith wanted to forget about that play.

So when it came time for her to bat in the seventh and eighth inning, she made two memorable hits for Seminole.

Down 2-0, Griffith redeemed herself with a single in the seventh that scored Holly Groves, who led off the inning with a triple. The rally continued as Ellie Loder, pinch-running for Griffith, scored the tying run when Jessica Hunsinger hit a fly ball to centerfield that fell out of the glove of a diving Monique Marier.

With the game in extra innings, Griffith again came through, hitting a two-out single down the first base line that brought home Courtney Lewellen as the Warhawks came back for an improbable 3-2 victory.

"At the beginning of the game, we were nervous and had a couple of shaky innings," Griffith said. "But we've beaten this team before and we knew in our heart that we could do it again. I tried to shake off that error and didn't want to be remembered for that. I was nervous, of course, when I was up to bat, but I was able to get a couple of hits. I guess we got lucky."

For the Tornadoes, the only luck they've had the past month is hard luck. They've endured injuries to starters such as Kelle Keyes, the senior third baseman who had knee surgery in April and is out for the rest of the season, and utility player Dana Vickery, who banged up her knee but returned two weeks ago.

Now Clearwater (23-7) has to endure the pain of remembering how a game it had control of slipped away.

Heading into the seventh inning, Tornado starter Kristen Keyes had a one-hit shutout and allowed only four runners to reach base. On offense, Clearwater recorded 12 hits, including three hits by Brooke Massey and two hits by Mariah Green.

But everything unraveled in the bottom of the seventh when Groves unloaded on a pitch and sent it deep down the third base line for a triple. When she stopped at third base, Groves turned to her coach, Mark DeRuzzo, and said, "It's our inning."

Three runs and two innings later, the game also belonged to Seminole (25-4).

"It's hard to explain," DeRuzzo said. "We're behind by two runs and down to our last chance and we have the bottom of the order up to bat. But I told the girls at the beginning of the season that it would take all 16 of them to get the job done. That's what happened tonight. We got that triple and that turned them loose, I guess."

In Tuesday's regional quarterfinals, the Warhawks host Northeast and the Tornadoes travel to St. Petersburg.

A-10: Shorecrest wins

battle over Keswick

ST. PETERSBURG _ Just before the first pitch of the final, Shorecrest coach Kathy Sessions gave the Chargers an ominous direction, "Take one inning at a time." And they responded in the see-saw, run-trading championship game with an 18-12 district victory over Keswick Christian.

Keswick (7-16) set the offensive tone in the first inning when Rebekah Jordan's line drive to center brought home two runs. In the bottom of the inning, Shorecrest (18-3) had four hits and good base running, which gave it the lead 6-2.

The next inning was scoreless, though Charger shortstop Kelli Earle threatened a move home after a double and stolen base.

It was the third inning that was huge for Keswick. Shorecrest pitcher Lisa Bradley walked two after a Lindsey Crosby single, and with the bases loaded, Keswick pounded out six hits and seven runs when the Crusaders needed them, putting Keswick on top 9-6. Shorecrest managed only one run to end that inning.

If the third was huge for Keswick, the fourth was a monster inning for the Chargers. Jessica Sher and Alison Roberts had run-scoring singles. Mary Slocumb punched a line-drive double, and Earle produced a two-run single. Shorecrest scored eight and led 15-9.

Realizing its lead was precarious, Shorecrest sought pitching relief in Katie Higgs. She allowed four hits and three runs, including doubles from Crusaders Lindsey Kruis, Shannon Avey and Robin Wedekind. The Chargers lead closed to 15-12, and Keswick was rallying, but Shorecrest retaliated with another six hits at bat, which assured a lead of 18-12 at the end of five innings.

Keswick's chances were dashed in the seventh by the glovework of Earle, who leaped over second base to snag a line drive through the gap.

_ ED REED

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