For the eighth time in school history – and first time since 2009 – the second-seeded Citrus Lady Hurricanes advanced to regionals, next Thursday’s Class 6A, Region II quarterfinals.
Tuesday evening’s first of two 6A-District 6 semifinals at West Port High in Marion County featured a miracle rally against third-seeded Springstead.
Tied 7-7 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and the sacks loaded, SHS senior shortstop-turned-reliever Hailey Drawe’s first pitch to CHS junior Jessica Liptrap skipped in the dirt wide of catcher Brooke Fischbach.
Drawe’s lone wild pitch in 2 1/3 innings permitted CHS sophomore Rachel Martin to easily scamper home from third, 8-7 Lady ’Canes.
On the mindset prior to the wild pitch, “I thought if I don’t score, we’re going into another inning,” explained the 16-year-old Martin, who entered hitting .230 before finishing 2-for-4 with two critical runs scored and two runs batted in from the No. 9 hole. “I’m so glad we came back. Down 7-0, there were doubts.”
With the win, Citrus (16-9) captured the rubber match of three meetings this spring against the Lady Eagles (11-11) in come-from-behind fashion.
In the 6A-6 nightcap, fourth-seeded Lecanto (15-12) rode a pair of catcher Amber Atkinson homers to eliminate top-seeded Central (18-9), 6-4.
The Lady Eagles, who were seeking their fourth straight district championship tilt, crushed a game-high 12 hits – including nine against Lady ’Cane starter Kelly Abramowich.
Abramowich couldn’t corral her command lasting five innings allowing seven runs (two earned) with one strikeout and one walk against three wild pitches.
SHS exploded out of the gates with two runs in the first and second innings and three in the fourth.
In the initial frame, sophomore Shelbi Ard (entered the game hitting .301) opened the game with a single to right.
After a sacrifice bunt by Britny Desmond, Drawe (.467) rapped a RBI triple down the left-field line.
Drawe, who has already inked with D-II Newberry College, eventually finished with a game-high three hits.
Abramowich’s next pitch sailed to the backstop allowing Drawe to easily score, 2-0.
The Spring Hill squad quickly doubled the score.
Sophomore Morgan Selby (.156) singled, advanced to second on a passed ball and skipped into third on a wild pitch. Ard walked and immediately stole second base.
Here, Desmond beat out a gorgeous bunt single plating Selby. A subsequent throwing error allowed Ard to score, 4-0.
With two outs in the fourth, a struggling Abramowich plunked Desmond. Drawe reached on a muffed pop-up by shortstop Erica Corlew. Then All-County first sacker-turned-pitcher Louisa Disi (.382) rammed a two-run single to right-center.
Another 2012 All-County performer, Fischbach (.358), looped a RBI single to left plating Disi, 7-0.
Abramowich was lifted in favor of seldom-used reliever Jordan Josey.
The right-handed Josey (1-0), who had worked in nine of her team’s 159 innings, scattered three hits and one walk against two strikeouts in three shutout innings of relief.
The game’s complexion began to tilt on a leadoff free pass to Liptrap to open the fourth. A Disi wild pitch allowed her to reach second.
With two outs, Abramowich (.220) flared a 3-2 pitch that landed fair just in front of third sacker Sarah Kelly.
Once the ball hit the turf, from the bench Swartout yelled to Kelly to let the ball roll foul. Only problem: The ball plopped down and remained in fair territory for an infield hit.
Martin followed by ripping a 0-1 pitch down the left-field line for a critical two-run single, 7-2.
With one out in the fifth, CHS senior Aaron McIntrye (.304) was hit by a pitch. Corlew (.329) followed with a RBI double.
Liptrap reached on a Lady Eagle error on a botched rundown involving Corlew between second and third. Instead of two outs, the Lady ’Canes took advantage of runners at first and third.
Junior Chelby Lawler’s sacrifice fly plated Corlew, 7-4.
With one out in the sixth, Martin helped change the game’s complexion with a single to left.
Amy Abramowich (.434), who was 0-for-3, lined a 1-1 pitch for a RBI double against a now-struggling Disi to base of the center-field fence, 7-5.
At this point, Coach Swartout opted for Drawe to toe the rubber.
After a walk by April DeSomma, McIntyre rapped a two-run triple to right-center to tie matters.
“Where I was in the count, I expected a pitch to be low and outside,” recalled the 17-year-old McIntyre. “That’s what I was looking for and got. I wanted to hit it as hard as I could and hope for the best.
“I’m not going to lie, when we down 7-0, I had doubts,” she added. “I knew we could come back. Softball isn’t about one person; it’s about the whole team. This is my senior year; I know I wanted to move on.”
With two outs, CHS’ fourth-year skipper Larry Bishop rolled the dice. With McIntyre at third, Liptrap walked, but never hesitated to stop at first base, and instead hustled toward second base attempting to catch the Lady Eagle defense napping.
Instead, Fischbach, the catcher, threw a seed back to Disi covering second for the third out.
Though Fischbach (single) and Kelly (walk) reached to open the seventh, neither team scored.
In the bottom of the eighth Martin reached on a Kelly error – the team’s game-high fourth.
After Amy Abramowich sacrificed Martin to second, DeSomma and Corlew walked in between a ground out by McIntyre setting the stage for the first pitch to Liptrap which ended the contest.
“Down 7-0, that wasn’t the team that had played for us all season,” declared Coach Bishop. “Thank goodness the bottom of the lineup really came through. Winning 8-7, I couldn’t be any prouder of these girls.
“I thought McIntyre’s triple changed the game,” added Coach Bishop. “This win was so big. We started with this group four years ago and this (advancing to the district championship) is exactly where we want to be.”
From the visitors’ dugout, “I’m speechless right now,” explained the 11th-year Eagle mentor Swartout. “I really don’t know what to say. I’ve never been in a game like this.”
Swartout defended his decision to opt for Drawe, saying, “Louise (Disi) couldn’t throw another pitch. She’s a gamer. She gave us everything she had and she wanted to stay out there. We just ran out of gas.”
Citrus 8, Springstead 7 (8 inn.)
123 456 78 R H E
SPG 220 300 00– 7 12 4
CIT 000 223 01 – 8 8 2
SPG – Disi, Drawe (6) and Fischbach.
CIT – K. Abramowich, Josey (6) and Michaud.
W – Josey (1-0). L – Drawe (3-2).
2B – Desmond (SPG); A. Abramowich, Corlew (CIT).
3B – Drawe (SPG); McIntyre (CIT).
Records – Springstead (11-11 overall), Citrus (16-9).
Class 6A, District 6 Tourney Recap
04-15: Quarterfinal at Lecanto
Lecanto 12, West Port 6
04-16: Semifinals at West Port
Citrus 8, Springstead 7 (8 inn.)
Lecanto 6, Central 4
04:18 Final at West Port
No. 4 seed Lecanto vs. No. 2 seed Citrus, 7 p.m.