NEW PORT RICHEY - River Ridge earned its 5-0 win over Mitchell in Tuesday's Class 6A region semifinal with the same formula it has used throughout a 17-game win streak - strong offense, tight defense and dominant pitching.
"It was a pretty perfect game," ace Makenzie Goluba said.
After struggling early against Mitchell (19-7) in last month's district final, the Royal Knights (28-1) fought to a quick lead. Arkansas commit Kenzi Maguire tripled in her team's second at-bat to score Madisyn Palmer, and Melissa Moore's two-run double off the leftfield wall gave River Ridge the lead for good. All but two Knights starters got on base at least once.
Morgan Tolle bashed a home run - her second in the playoffs and ninth of the season - and Goluba added an RBI single in the fifth.
River Ridge made some highlight-reel defensive plays to secure its fourth win this season over the rival Mustangs. Brittany Forrise made a diving catch in rightfield to save a hit, and Tolle leapt for a line drive to end the fifth.
That was enough help for Goluba, who sealed her 12th shutout of the season and completed her seventh consecutive game without allowing an earned run.
The sophomore right-hander allowed only three hits and pitched herself out of two jams - no outs and a runner at third in the third, and runners at second and third with one out in the sixth.
"It almost seems like when somebody gets on second and third, they bear down," coach Ernie Beck said.
The Knights will travel to Bradenton in Friday's elite eight matchup to face the same Lakewood Ranch team that ended River Ridge's 2012 season.
* * *
5A: Riddle rips the winner for Hernando
NEW PORT RICHEY - After her squeeze-bunt attempt went foul, wasting a chance to give her team the lead, one desperate thought went through Courtney Riddle's head.
"Please don't call for another squeeze," she said.
Indeed Riddle was told to swing away, and did she ever. Riddle's two-run double in the top of the sixth provided the winning runs in Hernando's 3-1 victory at Gulf on Tuesday.
Hernando (22-7) advances to the third region final in school history, hosting either St. John's Creekside or North Marion. That game was pushed to Wednesday afternoon due to rain in Ocala.
Leopards coach Kevin Bittinger originally chose, with runners on second and third and one out, to have Riddle bunt for the lead.
"After she popped that first one foul ...Courtney's been hitting the ball so hard, coming up with big hits all year so we took it off," he said. Riddle smacked the next Madison Morlan offering to the leftfield wall.
There was still the matter of pitching the Leopards to victory, and Gulf (15-14) made Riddle work for it. With one out in the sixth she walked Nikki Sedivy, followed by a single up the middle by Morlan. Third baseman Danielle Harvey then made a heads-up play on a grounder, cutting down the lead runner.
Riddle then uncorked a wild pitch - only to have catcher Megan Lane throw out the runner at third. Another wild pitch turned into a key second out in the seventh.
"That usually doesn't happen," said Lane, a sophomore. "At home the fence is so far back I can't make those plays."
With the tying runs on, second baseman Summer Solovitch dove for the game's final out.
* * *
2A: Sophomore's timely hit lifts AATL
TAMPA - Just before the biggest at-bat in her high school career, Academy at the Lakes sophomore Skyler Boynton got a quick pep talk from her older sister.
"I did my job," Sydney Boynton said. "Now it's time for you to do yours."
Her kid sister delivered.
Skyler Boynton's two-out, two-strike single up the middle capped a Wildcats rally and scored the winning run in a 3-2 walkoff victory over Deltona Trinity Christian in Tuesday's Class 2A region final. AATL (10-5) advances to host Quincy Munroe on Friday.
The Wildcats' second straight trip to the elite eight seemed unlikely early. The normally steady Sydney Boynton gave up two runs on five hits through the first three innings. AATL's offense was also out of sorts against the Eagles (10-8). One of its first two runners reached base in each of the first four innings, but the Wildcats couldn't score.
But Sydney Boynton settled down in both phases of the game. The senior didn't allow a hit after the third and finished four nearly flawless innings to keep her team alive for a late rally.
Catherine Smith reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the sixth, and USF commit Lauren Evans' double put runners at second and third. Sydney Boynton let Smith score on a sacrifice fly, and Andrea Mauger knocked in Evans to tie the game.
"My teammates picked me up," Skyler Boynton said.
And she brought them home.
After Maria Aumaitre got on base with another Eagles error, Skyler Boynton rocked a hard hit up the middle. Veteran Pasco County coach Jerry English jumped and waved his arms as Aumaitre sped toward home to complete the first walkoff hit in Skyler Boynton's prep career.
"It was really exciting," Skyler Boynton said, "because I know I did my job."
Correspondent Darek Sharp contributed to this report.
* * *
7 p.m. Friday unless noted
6A:River Ridge atLakewood Ranch
5A: Hernando vs. TBD
2A: Quincy Munroe at Academy at the Lakes (Live Oak Park), 4