Plant City’s softball season ended in a whopping 19 innings and a 2-1 loss in Tampa.
Plant City High School’s latest FHSAA regional tournament appearance had two very different experiences.
In the May 8 quarterfinal at Steinbrenner, the Raiders cruised to an 8-0 win over the Warriors in Lutz. Ashley Blessin threw a complete game no-hitter with 14 strikeouts and gave up just one walk on 106 pitches, and also went 4-for-5 at the plate with two RBI to lead the team offensively. Plant City also got big performances at the plate from Rylee Shaffer (3-for-4, one run scored) and Emily Longoria (1-for-3, two RBI, one run scored) and on the base paths with two runs apiece from Rylee Moorman and Brea Simmons. Abbie DeWeese and Brittany Mercedes also crossed home plate for Plant City in the big win.
Tuesday’s regional semifinal at Sickles, on the other hand, was as close a game as you’ll ever see on the softball field. Really, though, it was almost like three close games in one: the Raiders and Gryphons battled for 19 innings until Sickles scored with a walk-off RBI single just before 1 a.m. Wednesday.
The Raiders took an early 1-0 lead on a fielder’s choice play hit by Kelli McAvoy that drove in DeWeese. The Gryphons answered in the fourth by taking advantage of a PCHS error immediately following a triple.
Blessin again went the distance for Plant City, this time throwing 249 pitches — well over twice her workload at Steinbrenner — with no earned runs allowed. She struck out 29 (incredibly, that wasn’t even her season-high for a game) and walked three while giving up 12 hits. Though this wasn’t how she hoped to end her high school career, her 2019 stats (179.1 innings pitched, 0.12 ERA, 20-5 record, 15 shutouts, four no-hitters, one perfect game, 379 strikeouts) combined with the fact she’s leaving with 1,059 career strikeouts should lock her in for the county’s highest honors and guarantees her status as one of the most accomplished athletes to ever walk the halls of PCHS.
Plant City is set to lose four of its most important players to graduation, but a roster of one junior, eight sophomores and two freshmen making it this far should lead to PCHS fielding a battle-tested squad in 2020.