PLANT CITY — Shannon Bell crushed a three-run, walk-off home run to lead the Durant High softball team to a 9-8 victory Thursday night against Steinbrenner in the Class 7A-Region 2 quarterfinals.
“It was kind of outside, and I drove it,” Bell said.
The shot to straight-away center field sent the home crowd into euphoria, screaming and clapping and high-fiving.
Steinbrenner appeared to be in control after scoring five runs in the fifth inning to go up 7-4. Starting pitcher Nichole McClendon slugged a three-run homer in the inning, and Erica Serafini hit a two-run homer in the third. McClendon pitched the first three innings, limiting the Cougars to two runs.
Steinbrenner scored another run on singles by Paige Cimino and Emily Scios.
Durant followed with two in the sixth. Bell walked and Kelli Tidwell doubled to left, and then a ball hit by Selena Bezares behind first base went off the glove of the second baseman and both runners scored, making in 8-6.
Steinbrenner was held scoreless in the top of the seventh, and Durant took its final at-bat. With one out, Morgan Slater coaxed a walk after a nine-pitch at-bat. She was forced out on a fielder’s choice, but Payton Lewis followed with a full-count walk to put two runners on.
Bell then followed, taking a strike then turning on the second pitch — an outside one to her liking — and deposited it over the fence.
7A-2: Dietrich shuts down Gaither
TAMPA — Plant City junior pitcher Noelle Dietrich knew coming into the Class 7A-Region 2 softball quarterfinal that Gaither was a hard-hitting team, and her performance in the circle could be the difference between winning and losing.
Using an array of pitches, the junior limited the No. 8 state-ranked Cowboys to two hits as Plant City moved on with a 3-1 win.
“My pitches were on tonight, that’s for sure,” said Dietrich, who improved to 15-3 on the mound. “Me and my coach were working well, and my defense was great backing me up today.”
Plant City took a 2-1 lead in the top of the third inning when Avery Brown scored on an infield error, and Emily Register stole home when the catcher tried to throw out a runner taking a large lead off second base.
“(Gaither’s catcher) did that in the first inning and got our girl off second base, she was off way too far, so she threw behind the second baseman, and we knew that was a possibility again, and that was really a heads-up play by Emily Register to go on the throw,” said Plant City coach Maggie Feix.
Kacie Booth’s RBI single in the top of the seventh inning to score Rebecca Sorenson gave the Raiders some insurance. Gaither scored in the second inning when Payton Hiday drove home pitcher Sammi Grat, who, after reaching first on a single, advanced to second on a groundout to the shortstop and a moved to third on sacrifice bunt.
“They’re a great hitting team, so it was great to keep them off balance,” Dietrich said.
5A-2: River Ridge tops Nature Coast
NEW PORT RICHEY — A four-run fifth-inning outburst helped carry River Ridge to a 4-1 victory against Brooksville Nature Coast in a Class 5A-Region 2 quarterfinal.
“It was really frustrating,” River Ridge coach Ernie Beck said of his team’s early struggles. “Kenzie (Maguire) hit a shot in her first at-bat and another in her second time up. I had her bunt in her third at-bat, which I never have her do, but she ended up being the catalyst.”
Nature Coast freshman pitcher Alyssa Gonzalez held the Royal Knights to three hits through four innings. The Sharks (22-5) took a brief 1-0 lead when Chyloe Gonzalez tripled off Makenzie Goluba to begin the fourth inning, and Courtney Davis’ sacrifice fly allowed Gonzalez to score from third.
River Ridge (26-3) began the comeback in the bottom of the fifth inning. After Allysa Lyons singled, Gonzalez walked Madisyn Palmer and Morgan Tolle to load up the bases.
Sharks coach Ernie Chatman replaced Gonzalez with fellow freshman pitcher Abbey Primavera, and the Royal Knights would take a 3-1 lead off of a Melissa Moore single, which drove in Palmer and Tolle. From there, Goluba would keep the Sharks’ bats at bay, striking out five and only allowing three hits for the game.
5A-3: Lakewood ends Robinson’s season
TAMPA — Led by Division I pitching prospect Mariah Watts, Lakewood defeated Robinson 13-3 to advance to the Class 5A-Region 3 semifinals and end the Knights’ season.
Watts, a Wisconsin signee, pitched a complete game, striking out nine and allowing four hits. At the plate she went 4-for-5 with a double and two RBIs.
Robinson (11-10) was plagued by five errors, which led to seven unearned runs.
“I think we could have played a much better game all the way around,” Knights coach Ed Gallio said. “We were flat, didn’t come ready to play.”
Robinson trailed 4-0 after two innings, but had three consecutive hits in the third, scoring three runs to pull within 1. Sam Conlan went 2-for-3.
But Lakewood got a timely solo homer from Mara Body in the fifth, sparking a three-run inning, and scored five more in the sixth, highlighted by a two-run double by Body.
5A-3: Bayshore rolls past Middleton
BRADENTON — Middleton’s season came to an end with a 15-0, four-inning loss to Bradenton Bayshore in the Class 5A-Region 3 quarterfinals.
3A-2: Frost keys Carrollwood Day
ODESSA — When Carrollwood Day School freshman Emma Frost was told she needed to bat from the leadoff spot, the thought rattled her just a bit.
“But it started to grow on how I should react and just let the pitches come, and when I find mine, let the bat do the work and get on base,” she said.
Frost at the leadoff spot has proven to be most beneficial for Frost, and the team.
On Thursday, Frost led the Patriots with two runs, a stolen base and an RBI triple as Carrollwood Day won its first playoff game, 5-2, against Fort Meade in the Class 3A-Region 2 quarterfinals at Fest Field.
Frost entered the game as CDS’s leading batter with 39 hits, 27 of which were for extra bases, and .684 batting average. Her RBI triple in the fifth inning broke a 2-2 tie and after being batted home by pitcher Emalee Jansen, gave the Patriots (14-7) a two-run lead.
“I knew I just had to wait for the ball and let it get to me so I can make a good, clean cut to the right side,” Frost said.
Jansen scattered five hits with a strikeout, but also had five put outs from the mound.
3A-2: Seffner Christian falls to Lakeland Chr.
LAKELAND — Lakeland Christian defeated Seffner Christian, 10-0, in the Class 3A-Region 2 quarterfinals, ending the Crusaders’ season.