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Nation's No. 2-ranked prep softball team falters in state semis after 28 straight wins.

At the end, the sheen of dominance East Lake High School had acquired during its spectacular regular season was replaced by the vacant stares of the shocked.

Last year, when the Eagles lost in the Class 5A state semifinals, they were devastated, but the loss spurred them to a perfect 2011 regular season.

But Friday's 4-0 loss to Bartow at the National Training Center, with a potential No. 1 national ranking and unblemished record on the line, crushed them.

There was the inexplicable sense that the Yellow Jackets played with more passion and the inescapable feeling that something unlikely ever to be recovered was lost.

Until Friday, this season had the special air of inevitability, complete with the breaks and luck that perfection requires.

Still, the road for East Lake to win its first state title was filled with obstacles.

The Eagles, who entered Friday's semifinal 28-0 and ranked No. 2 in the nation by ESPN Rise, faced No. 6 Bartow. The Yellow Jackets have won seven state titles, including five straight from 2001 to 2006.

This time, the breaks did not go East Lake's way. The Eagles' normally air-tight defense committed two errors. And their powerful offense managed just three hits, all singles.

"For some reason we weren't attacking when we needed to, and we weren't patient when we needed to be," East Lake coach Mike Estes said.

It was a tough loss for a team with seven senior starters. Eagles pitcher Alyssa Bache, tears streaming, huddled with her teammates afterward. They exited with their perfect season ruined and faced uncomfortable questions about coming short on the biggest stage - again.

"It just wasn't our night," said Bache, who has committed to the University of Florida.

There were parts of the game that the Eagles will ruminate over, perhaps for years. The biggest moments came in the fifth and seventh innings when Bartow (28-1) scored two runs each.

The Yellow Jackets' strategy coming into the game was to crowd the plate to help offset Bache's speed and movement.

It worked.

Bache gave up seven hits, a season high. She also hit two batters and walked two more.

"They were crowding the box and taking away some of my movement on pitches," Bache said.

East Lake's normally dominant offense couldn't manage much with three hits and just six who reached base. Bartow starter Lauren West struck out seven and forced 10 flyouts.

"We've been loose all year, but maybe we started to press a little," Estes said. "By the third or fourth inning, we were a little bit more quieter and not talking as much."

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Up next

State softball

National Training Center, Clermont

Admission: $8 per session; parking is $5.

Friday's results

Class 5A: Niceville d. Wellington 5-0; Bartow d. East Lake 4-0

Class 2A: Delray Beach American Heritage d. Sneads 4-3; Winter Park Trinity Prep d. Community School of Naples 16-0

Today's finals

Class 5A: 4:05 p.m.

Class 2A: 12:05 p.m.