TAMPA — It was happening again. Chamberlain had a seventh-inning lead on Freedom, only the Patriots weren’t going away.
But there would be no comeback Tuesday as the Chiefs held on for a dramatic 1-0 road victory. Freedom’s bid to tie, a hard-hit and sinking ball to center by Rachel Carlson, was snagged for the final out by Zalonzia Canady.
“I hoped they would hit it to me. That’s what you have to think in that situation,” Canady said.
The win pulls the teams into a tie for first place in Class 7A, District 9, both at 5-1 with two games left.
Freedom (11-2) would have clinched the top seed with a comeback. In the first meeting at Chamberlain, the upstart Patriots scored four runs in the top of the seventh for a stunning 7-6 win.
So when Freedom put runners at the corners with one out, Chiefs pitcher Rachel Dwyer couldn’t help but flash back.
“Nervous as you could be,” she said. “But you just try to bear down and trust your stuff.”
First she got a huge strikeout, her third of the night, on a 3-2 pitch to Patriots home run leader Ashley Wilson.
Earlier in the inning Freedom stunted its rally by having a runner thrown out at third base for the third time. In each case it was a player who tried to advance from first on a single.
In the big sixth-inning moment, Caroline Whiteside was initially ruled safe stretching for third. But the umpires conferred and changed the call, Dwyer’s swipe tag ruled to have gotten Whiteside.
“That one call didn’t decide the game,” said Freedom coach Autum Hernandez, who protested heartily. “We didn’t run the bases well, and Rachel threw a great game against us.”
Dwyer was unequivocal that she made the tag. “Fortunately the other umpire saw it,” she said.
That heads-up defense was frequent. Even on the lone error, a bobble by Chiefs third baseman Amber Fullwood in the fifth, Fullwood immediately made amends by snagging a Carlson liner and turning two.
And even on the only run Freedom made a sensational play. The Chiefs scored on freshman Andi Kwilinski’s bunt. But Freedom prevented further damage on the play when catcher Maddy Hall, seeing she couldn’t make an out, alertly threw out the runner at third.
Whiteside made two tremendous diving stops from second base and was 2-for-2 for the Patriots (11-2). Freedom’s Savanna Chavez and Chamberlain’s Izzy Ordorica also had two-hit nights.
“The pitching and defense was great tonight,” said Freedom starter Katlin Hall, who threw a complete-game five-hitter. “I really did think we were going to come back again. But, we still have districts.”