EAST LAKE — Aliyah Andrews has been described as a game-changer because of her speed.
The East Lake sophomore centerfielder, who already has orally committed to LSU, went 2-for-5 with two steals and two runs in Thursday’s Class 7A region quarterfinal against Bradenton Braden River.
But her right arm produced the pivotal play in an 8-5 victory.
Down 8-3, the Pirates scored once and had the bases loaded with one out. Sarah Crawford hit a ball that dropped in front of Andrews. One runner scored, and another was heading home when Andrews threw a rocket to the catcher for a tag at the plate.
The Eagles then sealed the game by inducing a flyout from Jess McKinnon.
“I was a little mad that I didn’t dive and catch that ball,” Andrews said. “I had some trouble getting a grip on the ball. Then I just chucked it. Praise the Lord that I was able to make a great throw and such a big play to help us win.”
Through two innings, it appeared the Eagles (16-7) wouldn’t need a game-saving throw. They capitalized on walks and defensive miscues to score three runs in the first and five in the second.
But the Eagles also stranded 10 runners.
After early jitters, Braden River settled down. The bats came alive in the final three innings as the Pirates scored three in the fifth.
In the seventh, East Lake starter Diana Rayder was wearing down. The plan was for her to pitch to McKinnon. If she reached, Maddie Bertisch would come in. Rayder bore down to get a flyout from McKinnon, who was 2-for-3 before that.
“That was a huge out for Diana because (McKinnon) is such a good hitter,” East Lake coach Kristie Delk said. “But the play of the game came from Aliyah. Without that throw, it would have been a completely different game.”
7A: Cougars shut out
LAKEWOOD RANCH — Right-hander Amanda Rak struck out 12 and did not allow a hit in the last four innings as Lakewood Ranch beat Countryside 2-0.
Freshman Kaylee Misiti provided the offensive spark banging out three hits and driving in the go-ahead run with a two-out single in the sixth to break a scoreless tie.
After an infield error and a walk, Countryside (20-8) had runners on second and third in the sixth inning, and Rak ended the frame with a strikeout She had three strikeouts in the third and two in each of the last two innings.
The Mustangs (21-7) added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Kahlie Bickerstaff doubled to drive in Misiti with two outs.
Countryside had four hits and only one extra-base hit, a double in the second with two outs.
5A: Another first for Spartans
A week after securing its first playoff berth, Lakewood came through with its first postseason win, beating host Robinson 13-3 in the Class 5A region quarterfinals.
The Spartans will travel to Bradenton Bayshore in Tuesday’s region semifinals.
Against the Knights, Lakewood jumped out to a 4-0 after two innings. In the sixth, the Spartans broke the game open with eight runs. Mariah Watts went 3-for-4 with two doubles to lead Lakewood. Other big hits for the Spartans came on homer by Mara Brody and a triple by Andrea Vargas.
Watts also finished with 10 strikeouts.
“We played really well,” Lakewood coach Edie Shankle said. “It’s exciting to keep this going and have another shot at Bayshore in the next round.”
5A: Dunedin falls short
BROOKSVILLE — After returning most of its roster from last season’s region final appearance, Hernando came into this postseason with something to prove.
The journey began with a 3-1 victory over Dunedin in Thursday night’s Class 5A region quarterfinal at Tom Varn Park.
“There were a lot of what ifs after last year (in the region final),” Hernando coach Kevin Bittinger said, “but we’ve proven ourselves time and time again against tough competition.”
Courtney Riddle (26-1) was masterful on the mound for the home team, tossing a complete-game three-hitter with no earned runs, no walks and three strikeouts. And although the Leopards (26-2) committed three errors, one of which resulted in the Falcons’ lone run, the senior ace controlled the tempo of the game.
“(Courtney) did a good job of working ahead and locating her pitches,” Bittinger said. “They have some pretty decent hitters and she kept them off-balance, just like she’s done all year.”
Riddle’s counterpart, Dunedin ace Aubrey Ehlers (16-6), was almost as good against the Hernando lineup. The hurler had only one shaky inning, when the Leopards had four straight two-out hits to score three runs in the third.
Ehlers retired Kaylee Frascatore and Lauren Moore to start the inning before No. 9 hitter Erika Lewis slapped a single. Megan Lane followed by lining a two-strike pitch back up the middle for a single. Danielle Harvey knocked in Lewis with a single, and senior captain
Tana McDaniel capped the scoring with a two-run double in the right-centerfield gap.
After a hit by pitch and an error, Dunedin (17-7) scored when Central Florida State College signee Tiona Hill hit a bloop single over first base. Hill will join Riddle at the collegiate level next season, with both signing to the same school.
Hernando advances to Tuesday’s region semifinal against River Ridge. The Leopards and Royal Knights split their two games this season.
“If you’re going to play River Ridge, you have to ready to play ball,” Bittinger said. “They have some unbelievably talented hitters, so you have to pick your battles.”
3A: Keen sparks SPC past CCC
ST. PETERSBURG — Allison Keen did it on the mound and at the plate for St. Petersburg Catholic. She went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs while keeping Clearwater Central Catholic hitters off balance as the Barons rolled to an 11-2 region quarterfinal victory.
The Barons host Admiral Farragut on Tuesday.
The Marauders got to Keen in the first on Ashley Hancock’s RBI single. But the Barons responded with three in the bottom of the inning as Sara Barlow had an RBI single and scored a run.
The Barons broke the game open with three runs in the second, including an RBI single from Keen and RBI double from Lena Trehy.
Keen made it 8-1 in the fourth with a homer to left-centerfield. The Barons tacked on three runs to make it 11-1. But Clearwater Central Catholic would not fall victim to the mercy rule as St. Petersburg Catholic fielding miscues extended the game.
The Barons had another chance to end it in the fifth but failed to score despite getting singles from Trehy and Keen to start the inning and having the bases loaded with one out.
3A: Freshman lifts Farragut to win
CLEARWATER — Sometimes, a little pressure makes all the difference.
Admiral Farragut freshman leadoff hitter Kyndal Olander used aggressive baserunning to force a senior-free Calvary Christian team into small but costly miscues. Those helped the Blue Jackets earn a 2-0 victory in a Class 3A region quarterfinal.
“I always play like that; a little excited,” Olander said. “I have a lot of energy, and the softball field is where I can get it out.”
Olander and senior Claudia Pizzarelli made for quite a tandem. In the first, Olander walked, went to third on Pizzarelli’s bunt in front of the plate and scored on Sarah Schleich’s grounder.
With two outs in the second, Olander singled, stole second standing up, moved to third on another Pizzarelli bunt single and scored when the senior forced a throw to second on the play.
“Claudia’s been playing since eighth grade and had to suffer through 20-loss seasons,” Farragut coach Linda Derk said. “For them to get their first-ever regional tourney win is huge.”
Corynn Miner (three hits, 13 strikeouts, one walk) outpitched fellow sophomore Rachel Hunt (three hits, five strikeouts, five walks) for the victory.
“This was a great pitchers’ duel and a great game,” Warriors coach Vergil Morgan said. “We have everybody coming back next year, and we look forward to playing AFA in the playoffs next year.”
Correspondents Chuck Frye, Corey Long and Derek J. LaRiviere contributed to this report, which uses information from the Herald.