WESLEY CHAPEL — Robinson’s softball team was tough and resilient and sometimes brilliant Tuesday night.
The result was a thrilling 4-3 victory over host Wesley Chapel in a do-or-die Class 6A region semifinal, a victory, by the way, that marked the deepest a Knights’ softball team has ever gone in the playoffs.
Where to begin?
How about holding the 4-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning with no outs, a runner at first and the game’s most dramatic play, which started with a towering blast off the bat of Wesley Chapel’s Ashley Garrison.
Back, back, back the ball traveled toward right-centerfield and … bounced off the plastic yellow tube on top of the fence and back into play.
Robinson right-fielder Rachel Clark picked up the ball, and as the lead runner raced around second base, Clark gunned it toward freshman third baseman Lindsey Chadwick.
“I said, ‘Oh no, the ball is coming toward me,’ and ‘oh no, here comes the runner,’ and, ‘oh no, she’s here,’ and ‘oh no, the ball is bouncing,’ and then I had the ball in my glove and then I knew she was definitely going to be out,” Chadwick said. “No doubt about it.”
“Six inches higher and that’s a home run,” Robinson coach Ed Gallio said. “But it bounced back and we made a great play."
From there, with Robinson reliever Olivia Van Zandt in command, the Knights (22-7) pretty much shut down Wesley Chapel (15-7).
In the first few innings, however, it looked like it might be the Wildcats’ night, especially in the bottom of the second when freshman cacher Kadence Means sent a deep shot over the fence for a three-run homer and a 3-0 lead.
“I made a mistake on that pitch, throwing it a little inside,” said Robinson sophomore starter Shelby Schoonmaker, who was otherwise stellar in 5.1 innings, allowing only four hits while striking out three. “I just said, ‘Well, that’s over with and there’s nothing I can do about it now.’ I also knew we had a team that could come back.”
The Knights’ did in their next at-bat, scoring three runs on two bunt singles, a sacrifice bunt, a two-run single by Chadwick and another RBI single by Jordan Stephens.
Robinson grabbed the lead in the top of the fifth on a double by Stephens, followed by a stolen base by Stephens and a throwing error that allowed Stephens to run home with what ended up being the winning run.
“This team never quits!” crowed Gallio. “This team never gets down. They just stay positive no matter what."