LAND O’LAKES — After a five-run first inning Thursday, Academy at the Lakes and Hernando Christian settled in to a nine-inning pitchers’ duel.
Academy led 5-2 going into the sixth inning, then a Hernando rally tied the score at 5. The teams went 2 1/2 innings before Wildcats sophomore Lauren Evans crushed a ball to deep left. The ball hit the top of the fence and dropped on the home run side as Evans trotted home with the winning run and a 6-5 victory.
“I was really glad it finished like this,” Evans said. “I’m glad to be the one who put us over the top today.”
Evans was 3-for-5 with two home runs, including a solo blast in the fourth inning that easily cleared the fence. She was also lights out on defense, with four put outs. Junior Sydney Boynton pitched a full nine innings, striking out 14 and walking one, and all five runs were earned.
On the other side, Hernando’s junior pitcher Ashley McKay pitched 8 1/3 innings, fanned 16 and walked three. Despite getting rattled in the first inning, both pitchers finished strong, putting up 12 empty frames between them and combining for 30 strikeouts.
The compelling matchup was when McKay pitched to Evans. Clearly the centerpieces of their respective teams, McKay and Evans squared up five times.
In the first inning, Evans tripled to leftfield, driving in Academy’s first two runs. In the second Evans grounded out; in the fourth she homered to left before striking out on a changeup in the seventh.
In their final encounter, Evans connected for the winner. Academy swept the series and earned the No. 1 seed in Class 2A, District 4 going into April.