PINELLAS PARK — Despite winning 10 of its past 12 games and playing in last week’s conference championship game, St. Petersburg entered the semifinals of the Class 7A, District 10 softball tournament as underdogs.
The No. 3 seed Green Devils were playing No. 2 seed Seminole, a program steeped in tradition. The Warhawks were supposed to be too explosive, too experienced. Too much.
But St. Petersburg didn’t listen — it believed — and the Green Devils advanced to the postseason for the first time since 1998 with a 6-5 victory. And they did it in stunning fashion, scoring four runs in the seventh inning.
“These girls haven’t got a lot of respect all season,” St. Petersburg coach Donald McNally said. “But they are resilient and they know how to battle.”
Down 5-2 in the top of the seventh, the Green Devils started their comeback by loading the bases on singles by Katie Rieth and Carly Danner and a walk by Bre Setree. Ashley McNally hit a two-run single to cut it to 5-4. One batter later, Emma Weiland hit a two-run double to put St. Petersburg ahead.
The Green Devils (16-5) made the lead count thanks to two stellar plays from Rieth in centerfield. She ran back close to the warning track to snag a ball for the first out. Then she sprinted toward the infield to catch a short blooper for the final out.
“I was a little nervous when those two balls were hit,” Rieth said. “On that first one that was hit back pretty far; I saw it come off the bat and I just kept sprinting and sprinting to get it.”
Setree and McNally each had three hits.
Mackenzie Jahn was 3-for-4 for Seminole. Brooke Ours, Megan Withrow and Lauren Brucker also had two hits for the Warhawks.
In the other semifinal, the Cougars batted around in first inning and jumped out to a 5-0 lead. Countryside batted around again in the fifth and added five more runs. In all, the Cougars (23-3) had 10 hits. Brittany Creamer, Alyssa Householder and Alyssa Queen each had two.
“It wasn’t great, but it was enough to win,” Countryside coach Kaylyn Bayly said. “We made a few mistakes, things we need correct the next time we play.”
Dunedin cruises: Aubrey Ehlers had quite the game for Dunedin, on the mound and at the plate. She allowed one run and struck out eight. She also had four RBIs to lead the Falcons to an 11-1 semifinal victory over Boca Ciega that was called after five innings because of the mercy rule.
Dunedin (15-8) jumped out to an 8-0 lead before the Pirates scored in the fifth. In the bottom half of the inning, the Falcons scored three runs to end the game.
“We played pretty well,” Dunedin coach Roy Silver said. “We got the bats going and Aubrey pitched great. But we’re going to have our hands full in the final.”
Spartans roughed up: Top-seeded Lakewood’s memorable season came to an end in the semifinals of the Class 5A, District 12 tournament. Bradenton Bayshore pounded out 13 hits off Spartans ace Mariah Watts and cruised to a 9-2 win at Lake Vista.
“We just kind of fell apart,” coach Edie Shankle said.
Bayshore made a statement in the first inning. Shara James opened with a walk. Two outs later, cleanup hitter Marina Clark hit a home run to dead center for a quick 2-0 lead.
Bayshore tacked on another run in the top of the fourth, but Lakewood (12-5) looked like it was going to make a move in the bottom of the inning. The Spartans loaded the bases with no outs but could only get one run. After Marisa Rivera popped out to first, Katie Addler hit a fielder’s choice groundout to the pitcher that allowed Angelina Carney to score.
Haley Michalski then walked to reload the bases, but a hard-hit grounder to third by Sarah Snell ended the inning.
“We just couldn’t get any key hits,” Shankle said. “That’s not the way we’ve been playing all year. Bad time for that to happen.”
Lakewood scattered five hits against Bayshore starter Brea Potts. During the regular season, Lakewood lost to Bayshore 7-6.
“This is a young team and we’ve got all of them coming back except one,” Shankle said. “We’re only going to get stronger. Nobody expected us to be here. I told them not to leave with their heads down.”
6A-10: Mitchell's sixth-inning burst sinks Tarpon
LAND O’LAKES — There were a couple of moments Wednesday when it looked like a monumental upset was fully possible.
An early call took a run off the board for state-ranked River Ridge. Later with the margin 3-0 Land O’Lakes loaded the bases with no outs.
But it takes more than a couple of flashes to head off this River Ridge team. The Royal Knights (25-1) did enough to advance 4-0 to the Class 6A, District 10 final at Sunlake, where they will face Mitchell, an 11-1 winner against Tarpon Springs.
Tarpon pitcher Lindsey White took a line drive off the shin in the fifth, knocking her down for several minutes and creating a sizable welt as a souvenir.
Things fell apart for the Spongers (7-14) in the sixth. Kelsey Linn could no longer catch White, her previously injured thumb making it too painful a task. She left with a 1-2 count on the batter; White’s next three pitches were balls.
Then a ball was hit to Linn, who had shifted to third. Her hesitation on the throw loaded the bases without Mitchell (19-6) having needed a hit. But then the hits came: six singles with Davis again getting the scoring started with a two-RBI hit, and Erin Brown ending the game, driving in two.
White refused to blame the injury to herself or Linn.
“No excuses. They hit the ball. They’re a good hitting team,” she said.
It looked like it might be Tarpon’s day when White struck out Kelsey Willenbacher to end the fourth with the tying run on third.
Fowler struck out seven and had a key escape in the second inning after Tarpon took the lead. Two errors and a single by Linn made it 1-0. The Spongers had runners at second and third and no one out, and it looked like they could score on Sara Ruoss’ grounder but the runners stayed put. Then Fowler struck out the next two.
Julie Allen had two of the Spongers’ four hits.
“I wanted this one real bad,” said Tarpon coach Amanda Graham, a Mitchell grad.
6A-12: County teams sent packing
Pinellas County teams were eliminated in Wednesday’s semifinals. Osceola lost to Palmetto 7-3. It is the first time the Tigers have clinched a playoff berth since 2006.
Palmetto will play top seed Bradenton Lakewood Ranch in Friday’s championship. The Mustangs beat Dixie Hollins 6-0.
Staff writer Rodney Page and correspondent Darek Sharp contributed to this report.