PALM HARBOR — Palm Harbor University was lackluster in Tuesday’s Class 8A, District 8 semifinals, needing to hold off a rally to advance to the playoffs for a fifth straight season.
That was bad news for East Lake in Thursday’s championship game.
Hurricanes coach Kerry Katchuk mentioned that his team usually plays well after a subpar performance. Sure enough, PHU’s offense went on a tear, scoring 13 runs through the first four innings en route to a 15-8 victory.
The Hurricanes (23-4) have won all three games against the Eagles this season, scoring a combined 39 runs.
“I think we came out a little more motivated, a little more focused,” Katchuk said. “East Lake is a natural rival so I think that had something to do with it. I knew we would swing the bats well. I would have been shocked if we didn’t.”
PHU started strong, batting around in the first inning and scoring six runs. The defense also was solid, helping starter Rachel Taylor retire eight straight batters through the first three innings. PHU batted around again in the fourth and added another six runs to go ahead 13-3.
The Eagles (18-9) came to life in the sixth inning with four runs. But they could not get any closer.
In the bottom of the sixth, PHU scored two insurance runs. Logyn Lilley came on in relief in the final three innings and retired the side in the seventh to end the game.
Emma Hvozdovich had a two-run homer and Hannah Roberts had two singles to lead the Eagles. PHU’s Moriah Connolly was 2-for-3 with two walks and scored three runs. Katie Flanagan, the Hurricanes’ No. 9 hitter, was 3-for-4.
“It felt good to get past this one and move on to the playoffs,” Flanagan said. “We didn’t get too anxious when they scored a few runs. We just had trust in each other that we could win.”
7A-10: Big fifth inning fuels Countryside
PINELLAS PARK — Line drives were falling into their opponents’ gloves. The hits that were scrapped together were followed by running miscues. And there were a few errors on defense.
Through three innings, Countryside, the Class 7A, District 10 defending champion, had trouble manufacturing anything and had fallen behind against upstart St. Petersburg in Thursday’s championship game.
But the Cougars never became too worried, knowing their offense was capable of a big inning. Countryside got it in the fifth, scoring four runs to pull out a 4-1 victory.
“We just had to relax a little bit, be a little more patient and eliminate the mistakes,” Cougars coach Kaylyn Bayly said. “It took longer than I had hoped, but we were able to do it and breathe a little easier.”
Countryside catcher Hailee Keisling started the rally with a double and scored the tying run on a single by Samantha Sharpe. Keeley Mayers followed with a single that brought home Sharpe. And Brittany Creamer added insurance runs with a two-run triple.
The Cougars cruised after that as starting pitcher Alyssa Queen held the Green Devils scoreless the final two innings.
“We made a few mistakes early on, but I don’t think any of us were ever too worried,” Keisling said. “We knew all it would take is one big inning, one big hit to get us going. For me I just saw a pitch that was on the outside and I got on top of it for the double. It was something we definitely needed.”
3A-9: Shorecrest barely breaks a sweat
ST. PETERSBURG — Shorecrest put an exclamation point on its three-game dominance in the Class 3A, District 9 tournament Thursday with a 9-1 win over St. Petersburg Catholic at Admiral Farragut.
The Chargers pounded out nine hits against Barons starter Kelsey Humphrey in winning their 11th straight game.
Shorecrest (16-3) outscored opponents 26-1 in the tournament. During its current win streak, the Chargers have averaged more than nine runs per game.
“We’ve been trying to play this way all year,” said Shorecrest first baseman Lindsay Eaton, who was 2-for-4 with four RBIs. “We’ve been trying to get the key hits and today it all strung together.”
After getting shut down in the first inning, Shorecrest got three runs in the second, then sent nine batters to the plate in the third for five hits and four runs to blow the game open. The big hit came from Eaton, who tripled to right-centerfield to score Raquel Galinski, Hannah Smith and Molly Webber.
“The balls dropped for us,” Shorecrest coach Mike Galinski said. “They just dropped for us all day. It’s a little uncharacteristic about how they dropped, but they dropped.”
The Chargers tacked on two more runs in the sixth inning, highlighted by an RBI single from Eaton. The Barons (15-4) avoided the shutout when Martita Sharlow drove in Kristen Zinge, who led off the seventh inning with a triple.
This game was the rubber match. SPC won the first regular-season meeting 4-0. Shorecrest won the second 1-0.
Raquel Galinski pitched seven innings for the win, giving up five hits and striking out three.
“It’s championship time and we wanted them to be aggressive,” Mike Galinski said. “We don’t want to have any regrets. Leave it all on the field and let’s go as deep as we can.”
2A-9: Crusaders on cruise control
ST. PETERSBURG — Coach Jody Moore called this the strongest team she’s ever had.
An all-around excellent performance Thursday evening validated that assessment, as Canterbury defeated Cambridge 10-0 in the district final.
In pitching, hitting, defense and base running, the Crusaders were strong, putting forth an effort that gave Canterbury (16-11) its eighth consecutive district championship.
Kama Woodall dominated from the mound, striking out 10 Lancers and allowing just one hit in five innings. That lone single didn’t come until the fifth inning, and Woodall responded by striking out the next three batters.
Three inside-the-park home runs by Lindsey Graves accounted for six Crusader runs. In the bottom of the fifth, with Canterbury leading 8-0, Maddie Posey led off with a walk. Lacy Scherer subbed in to pinch run, and Graves came to the plate. She sent a pitch to deep right and raced around the bases to give the Crusaders the win.
Canterbury will host a region quarterfinal April 25. In the meantime, Moore said her team will prepare like always — with lots of practice.
“We work hard on every aspect of the game,” Moore said. “We take hundreds of ground balls and fly balls. I ask them to catch the base hit.”
Staff writer Rodney Page and correspondent Anthony Salveggi contributed to this report.