Three area softball teams competed in the FHSAA’s district tournaments this week and squared off against familiar faces.
After Wharton dispatched Wiregrass Ranch, 5-0, in the 4 p.m. 8A-4 semifinal game at Strawberry Crest High School, the hosting Chargers and Freedom played a close one for the right to fight the Wildcats. Unfortunately for the Chargers, the Patriots were able to clinch the championship game spot with a 4-3 win in extra innings.
Freedom got up on Crest in the bottom of the second inning with two bases-loaded walks, giving the Patriots a 2-0 lead, but the Chargers were able to tie things up in the top of the third inning. Freedom had a chance to walk off in the bottom of the seventh with a runner on third base and only one out, but Crest reliever Alyssa Grimes struck out Shaniyah Pope looking on a full count and induced a flyout to end the inning.
In the top of the ninth, Crest pulled ahead after Skylar Biswas reached first on an error at first base and was driven in by Grimes. But in the bottom of the inning, with one out, Freedom reached first base on a one-out bunt, tied the game with an RBI triple and scored the go-home run with a single in the next at-bat.
In the quarterfinal round of the tournament, Plant City showed the home crowd it meant business this week with a 6-0 win over Riverview.
Ashley Blessin, Lexi Moore, Beka Schulte and Abbie DeWeese picked up eight of the Raiders’ 11 hits and the team took advantage of the Sharks’ four fielding errors on the basepaths. Blessin was dominant in the pitcher’s circle, throwing a complete game no-hitter with two walks and 13 strikeouts to help the team reach Tuesday’s semifinal round against Bloomingdale.
The next day, Durant and East Bay opened the semifinal round with a 4 p.m. game. Though the Cougars played hard, they couldn’t create any offense against the Indians and were eliminated in a 2-0 final.
In the 6 p.m. semifinal game, Plant City made another statement with a 12-3 win over the Bloomingdale Bulls.
The Raiders and Bulls played to a 2-2 tie after one inning, but a two-run second inning gave Plant City the lead for good and a six-run explosion in the fifth inning gave the team a big cushion over Bloomingdale. Plant City picked up 10 hits throughout the game and Schulte (3-for-5, two RBI), Emily Longoria (2-for-4, three RBI, one run) and Moore (1-for-2, four runs, two RBI) were particularly effective on offense. Blessin struck out nine batters and was not credited with any earned runs.
At 7 p.m. tonight, Plant City and East Bay will battle for the series win, the district crown and the higher seed in the upcoming regional tournament.