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Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Softball: Freedom wins first Class 8A, District 4 title

PLANT CITY — Freedom went on a charmed run to reach the state semifinals in 2013.

It was the last time the Patriots made the playoffs.

On Thursday, they returned to the postseason, this time by taking their first district title.

Better still, Freedom did it by routing rival Wharton 13-0 in a Class 8A-4 final that lasted six innings because of the mercy rule.

"I don't think I would have expected this," Patriots coach Autumn Hernandez said. "Wharton is a really good team. We lost to them twice this year. But we've been hitting the ball well lately and our pitcher threw really well."

In all, Freedom pounded out 17 hits. Abby Vandeberg was 3-for-4, Ellis Erickson was 2-for-3 with a two-run double, and Dallas O'Clair had a big triple in what Hernandez said was the team's best offensive performance of the season.

It was quite the turnaround for the Patriots (18-5), who were outscored by a combined 16-7 in two regular-season losses to the defending district champion Wildcats.

Since that last loss to Wharton three weeks ago, Freedom has won seven straight.

"It's always intense whenever we play Wharton in anything," Hernandez said. "These girls were self-motivated. We didn't really have to say anything. They were determined to come out and play well."

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