TAMPA ― First came the hit, a sharp grounder by Steinbrenner’s Alexis Spencer that ricocheted off the glove of Sickles pitcher Natalie Zweig.
Then came the run.
After making contact, Spencer sprinted toward first base as a throw was made. Standing on third was pinch-runner Brianna Lyall.
Lyall made it home safely on the play.
Trailing by three runs, the Warriors rallied to tie the score in the sixth inning, completing the comeback with Lyall’s walkoff run in the seventh.
The 8-7 victory over the Gryphons marked the first time in three years Steinbrenner had beaten its biggest rival in the Class 8A, District 5 final.
Better still, the Warriors did it with a roster that has no seniors and includes five freshmen and four sophomores.
“This is really gratifying district title, especially with how young we are and were able to come together,” Steinbrenner coach Brenda Leach said.
The Warriors (18-5) did the little things. Lyall, pinch-running for Frankie Raeckers, moved to second on a bunt and stole third to set up the winning run.
Throughout the game, Steinbrenner was trying to catch up. The Warriors trailed 2-0 before rallying to take a 4-2 lead.
Sickles (20-7) countered by scoring four runs in the sixth inning to go up 7-4. Zweig and Sadie Weld each had two-run singles to ignite the rally.
Back came Steinbrenner with three more runs. Madison Frey's second double of the night scored the tying run.
It also gave the Warriors momentum.
Steinbrenner retired Sickles in order in the top of the seventh.
The celebration continues on Thursday. After school, the Warriors will have pizza and a Slip’N Slide party on their field.
“We haven’t been able to hold that kind of celebration in three years,” Leach said. “They’ve earned it.”