It was all there for Palm Harbor University, everything it wanted. A chance to unseat defending Class 8A state champion Durant and exact revenge for a loss in last year's region semifinals.
The Hurricanes were clinging to a one-run lead in the seventh inning. Logyn Lilley was on the mound for the Hurricanes, facing Shannon Bell with two out and runners at first and second.
Bell had gone 3-for-3 but she was jammed by an inside pitch and hit a pop-up PHU third baseman Moriah Connolly fielded to preserve a 1-0 victory.
"Facing that last batter, I just had to clear my head and pitch in the moment," Lilley said. "We knew the hitter was a good one. We just tried to work the ball inside and get either a pop-up or groundout. It happened to work in our favor.
"It's just such a crazy moment, so hard to describe the elation."
The game was expected to be a tight one. It also was supposed to be high-scoring, with each team averaging at least six runs per game.
Instead, the teams combined for eight hits (four apiece) and managed to get runners in scoring position just four times.
That had a lot to do with the pitching performance from starters Paige Davis of Durant and Rachel Taylor of PHU.
Davis worked the outside corner while Taylor threw inside. Taylor managed to have get groundouts or flyouts to the left side of the field 14 times.
"(PHU's) pitcher threw a great game," Cougars coach Matt Carter said. "We didn't do a good job of making adjustments."
In the sixth inning, the Hurricanes (25-4) generated some offense with Torey Scott getting a single and Lilley reaching on an error. Jess Adams followed with a single that brought home Scott for the winning run.
"I knew I had to be aggressive at the plate," Adams said. "Their pitcher was thriving on the outside, and I couldn't wait and fall behind. I just had to go for it because we really needed that run."
Last year, Durant made a habit of pulling out games with miraculous comebacks, including an extra-inning rally to knock off PHU. In the top of the seventh inning it appeared the Cougars were at it again, getting the first two runners on base. Lilley relieved Taylor and retired the next three batters she faced, including Bell for the final out.
"This is what the girls had talked about all offseason, about getting another chance to play Durant," Hurricanes coach Kerry Katchuk said. "This time, they got the outcome they wanted."
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3A: Chargers cruise against Barons novice
ST. PETERSBURG - Shorecrest coach Mike Galinski did a double take when he looked at St. Petersburg Catholic's lineup before the Class 3A region semifinal. Barons ace Kelsey Humphrey was not pitching. Because of a right shoulder injury, Humphrey was at third base and Brooke Zoffer was getting her first start of the season.
The Chargers took advantage, roughing up Zoffer and relief pitcher Lena Trehy in an 18-3 win halted in the third inning because of the 15-run mercy rule. Shorecrest (18-3) advances to its first region final.
"I expected (Humphrey) to pitch today," Galinski said. "When I saw the lineup card I was a little surprised. It said she was playing position No. 5. We had heard rumblings that she wasn't feeling good, but we trained for her to pitch."
According to Barons coach Tom Fabian, Humphrey hurt her shoulder pitching in last week's region quarterfinal. After seeing a doctor, Fabian said he had no choice but to take Humphrey off the mound.
"No game is worth hurting her permanently. ...," Fabian said. "She said she could play third base so we let her do that."
Shorecrest jumped on Zoffer with four runs in the first inning, highlighted by a two-run home run by Hannah Smith, her 10th of the season.
Then came a seven-run second in which Shorecrest sent 12 batters to the plate. Smith had a two-RBI double and Lindsay Eaton had a three-run home run.
Trehy, who pitched one game this season, replaced Zoffer in the third inning. She gave up six runs on three walks, two hits and two hit batsmen.
Raquel Galinski, who has pitched every inning of every game for Shorecrest, allowed four hits and three runs.
"Our focus was to play against Kelsey," Raquel Galinski said. "Playing against another pitcher was like, wow. We needed to adjust and we did that."
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2A: Familiar foe next for Canterbury
FORT MYERS - There's no soft spots in Canterbury's lineup, a lesson Southwest Florida Christian learned the hard way in Tuesday's Class 2A region semifinal.
The Crusaders slugged their way to an 11-0, five-inning victory over the Kings, pounding out 10 hits, including three fence-clearing home runs.
The bottom third of Canterbury's lineup - senior Whitney Laurent, eighth-grader Miranda Posey and senior Kelsey Hill - combined to reach base in eight of their 10 plate appearances, scoring five runs and driving in four.
Hill did the most damage, going 2-for-3 with a double, a home run and four RBIs.
"I'm very proud of the bottom of our lineup," Crusaders coach Jody Moore said. "We spent a lot of time this week working on pitch selection and focusing on the strike zone."
Pitcher Kama Woodall also came up big for Canterbury, scattering two singles, while walking two and striking out two. The eighth-grader also had three singles and three RBIs.
Eighth-grader Danielle Romanello's ninth home run of the season put the Crusaders up 1-0 in the first inning. Canterbury broke the game open by scoring nine runs in the fourth and fifth innings, three of which came on a bomb by eighth-grader Taylor Bump in the final frame.
The Crusaders (18-11) advanced to their sixth consecutive region final and will host defending Class 2A state champion Boca Raton Grandview Prep, which defeated Canterbury 2-1 at this same stage last season.
Dan Deluca, Special to the Times
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7 p.m. Friday unless noted
8A: Orlando Timber Creek at Palm Harbor University, 4
3A: Shorecrest at Moore Haven-West Palm Beach King's Academy winner
2A: Boca Raton Grandview Prep at Canterbury