BROOKSVILLE - Suffice it to say, Nature Coast Technical freshman right-hander Alyssa Gonzalez will never forget her first-ever varsity start, even if she didn't earn a decision in her team's eventual victory.
For nearly eight innings, Gonzalez was locked up in an outstanding pitchers' duel against Springstead junior southpaw Louisa Disi.
Gonzalez, who arrived with one inning pitched, navigated in and out of trouble, permitting four hits and two walks, but no runs through 7 2/3 frames.
With Disi aboard on a two-out single in the top of the eighth, NCT skipper Ernie Chatman opted for frosh right-hander Abbey Primavera to face two-time All-County catcher Brooke Fischbach.
Fischbach had hit the ball solidly three times against Gonzalez and was the only player in the game with two safeties.
But Primavera's third pitch to Fischbach resulted in a popout to strand the Lady Eagles' game-high seventh runner of the night.
Disi appeared like she was on autopilot. The only hit she'd given up through seven innings was junior Courtney David's infield single in the fourth.
The lefty hurler retired the first two batters she faced in the bottom of the eighth. At this point, the two-time All-County selection was carrying a 1-hitter, featuring two free passes against eight strikeouts.
But the NCT team that arrived hitting a combined .383 finally pieced together three consecutive singles to right field by freshman Cerina Brooks and juniors Kathryn Gonzalez and Breezy Harvey to solve Springstead, 1-0.
Harvey's clutch two-out RBI permitted the Lady Sharks to remain unbeaten at 5-0 and improve to 6-12 lifetime against archrival Springstead (3-5).
In an evenly played county tilt, both teams collected four safeties apiece.
SHS misfired on earlier chances to dent the scoreboard. With Shelbi Ard and Fischbach aboard in the opening inning, Gonzalez fanned Brittny Desmond for the final out.
In the third frame, Bailey Embry reached on an error before Abby Oliver coaxed a free pass. Ard followed with a gorgeous sacrifice bunt to advance both runners into scoring position.
With one out, Gonzalez, enticed the dangerous Disi to foul out and Fischbach to ground out.
Another opportunity arrived with two outs in the sixth, but with Lady Eagle runners at the corners, Sarah Kelly grounded out.
Defensively, NCT committed a game-high three errors compared to SHS' two.
From the Springstead dugout, veteran mentor Craig Swartout realized the Spring Hill nine wasted a stellar pitching performance by Disi (3-5) on the road against the archrival Lady Sharks.
"Louise pitched her guts out," lamented Swartout. "We had opportunities to score; we've got to cash those in. It was a hard-fought game, one that nobody likes to lose.
"The game was pretty evenly matched so you've got to tip your cap at Nature Coast for pulling it out," he added. "We're still 3-1 in the district (Class 6A, District 10) and playing these good teams early will only help us down the road."
Swartout scoffed at the notion of a moral victory, pointing out, "Moral victories don't put trophies in the trophy case."
From the home dugout, Chatman echoed Swartout's sentiments.
"It was a well-pitched game for three pitchers and a very evenly matched game," noted Chatman. "The difference was we got a clutch two-out hit with a runner in scoring position."
In recalling the final at-bat, "I had told Brooks (who was on second base) that on contact she was coming home, no hesitation."
From the NCT prospective, Chatman praised Primavera (4-0) for retiring Fischbach, saying, "I did not want Alyssa pitching to Fischbach a fourth time."
On Harvey's game-winner, "She's a veteran on this team," admitted Chatman. "You rely on people like her to come through with those clutch two-out hits."
Brooks, who finished 1-for-3, began the uprising with an innocent single.
"I was so nervous, I just wanted to start something," recalled the 15-year-old Brooks, who arrived hitting .333. "Breezy's hit was perfect. All I was doing was looking at Coach Chatman waving me in. This win was so big because it's against our rival. This game was so close."
"I remember there were two outs and I just had to get a hit," summed up the 16-year-old Harvey prior to her last at-bat. "I wasn't looking for a particular pitch. When I hit it, yeah, I knew the game was over.
"It was a huge win because they're our rivals," added Harvey, who arrived hitting .571. "But give credit to Springstead, they played well, too."
Nature Coast Technical 1, Springstead 0 (8 Innings)
123 456 78 R H E
SPG 000 000 00 - 0 4 2
NCT 000 000 01 - 1 4 3
SPG - Disi and Fischbach.
NCT - A. Gonzalez, Primavera (8) and C. Gonzalez.
W - Primavera (4-0). L - Disi (3-5).
Records - Springstead (3-5), Nature Coast Technical (5-0).