Region softball: East Lake falls to a national powerhouse

Top-ranked Lakewood Ranch ends the Eagles’ win streak at 26 straight games.
Published May 14

LAKEWOOD RANCH — The landline phone, complete with chords, was in the East Lake dugout, just like it’s been all season.

The old-school prop served as a reminder for the players to remain focused, especially against overmatched competition.

It worked.

No matter the opponent, the Eagles kept winning. And winning. They headed into Tuesday’s Class 8A region semifinal against Lakewood Ranch on a 26-game win streak, the longest among bay area teams.

The device also was used as motivation for this anticipated playoff matchup. For three straight seasons, East Lake’s season ended with a loss to the Mustangs.

Once again, the Eagles had another frustrating result, losing to their nemesis 10-0 in a game that was called after five innings because of the mercy rule.

“I would love to tell you what happened,” East Lake coach Kristie Delk said. “You’ve got to have everybody show up for every inning for something like this. And when you don’t, you’re going to get beat.”

[ RELATED: East Lake thrives after early deficit ]

Getting past this team and this round seemed even more difficult this season. Lakewood Ranch (28-0) entered as the No. 1 team in the nation, according to MaxPreps. The Mustangs have a roster full of Division I-bound players. Seven belong to the Tampa Mustangs’ 18-under national team directed by TJ Goelz, who also serves as the head coach at Lakewood Ranch. Three of the players on that travel team transferred from other schools in the offseason, including Claire Davidson, who moved from Virginia.

For 1 ½ innings, everything went right for the Eagles (27-2). Caroline Jacquay led off with a single in the first inning. Katie Bright smacked a double in the second. Twice, East Lake had runners at third but could not score.

The good vibes did not last.

The Mustangs have been controlled on occasion — for a few minutes, maybe a couple of innings.

Then things seem to explode.

Softballs start finding their way into the gaps and out of the yard. The offense becomes unhinged — No. 1 hitter, No. 9 hitter, it doesn’t matter.

[ MORE SOFTBALL: One big inning lifts Newsome to region final ]

Suddenly, the frenzy is on and every at-bat seemingly produces a score. It's like an adding machine gone wild and a tight game becomes a blowout.

It happened again, this time in the bottom of the second. Lakewood Ranch sent 13 batters up and scored nine runs.

The Eagles never recovered.

“Good team. You can’t take anything away from them,” Delk said of the Mustangs. “It was just one inning. Still, this was a special team. One game doesn’t define us, but I would have really liked to have showed up for this one.”