LAND O’LAKES — For the past few years, Robinson followed a familiar and frustrating routine.
The Knights would win a district softball title with ease before losing in the first round of regionals.
This season Robinson did not follow the same script. The Knights were upset in the Class 6A, District 8 final. That meant they had to go on the road to face three-time defending state finalist Land O'Lakes, the team that knocked them out of the first round a year ago.
Robinson coach Ed Gallio was fine with that.
“Maybe we needed to do something different,” Gallio said. “Maybe this was what we needed, to go on the road to change things up.”
It worked. The Knights reversed their fortunes in a big way, knocking off the Gators 4-3 in eight innings.
The postseason win was just the second in school history.
“This is definitely one of the top three wins,” Gallio said. “It might be the biggest one for this program.”
Robinson had done its scouting. Last week, Land O'Lakes ace Callie Turner walked eight Wesley Chapel batters in the 6A, District 7 championship game.
So the Knights knew to be selective at the plate. They got walks — and baserunners.
In the fourth inning, their patience paid off. Alyssa Acosta hit a two-run single to give Robinson a 2-0 lead.
The Gators (22-6) responded. Turner hit a solo homer in the fifth inning to cut it to 2-1. An inning later, Brooke Stanley singled to bring home Shelby Westbrook to tie the score at 2.
In the eighth inning, Acosta drew a bases-loaded walk to bring in the go-ahead run, and Alex Kirkner scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-2 Robinson.
“This was so big,” Acosta said. “We knew how horrible it was to lose such a close game last year and to end our season like that. We couldn't let that happen again. We had to dial it in.”
Land O’Lakes had its chances. Stanley hit a potential tying shot to the warning track that was in caught in the bottom of the eighth.
And Knights centerfielder Ashlyn Brushwood showed off her throwing ability by gunning down a runner at home.
The Gators scored once but had another runner thrown out at third to end the game.
The loss ends the greatest postseason run in Land O’Lakes history. The Gators won a state title two years ago and made the final last year.