NEW PORT RICHEY – Nature Coast Technical was looking to meet Hernando in a rematch of the Class 5A, District 7 championship game last week, in which the Lady Leopards narrowly came away with a 6-5 victory.
On Thursday, the Lady Sharks kept River Ridge’s bats fairly quiet for the first four innings, and then Royal Knights came alive in the fifth inning.
A four-run outburst by River Ridge ended Nature Coast’s season, with the Royal Knights defeating the Lady Sharks 4-1 in a Class 5A, Region II quarterfinal.
“It was really frustrating,” River Ridge coach Ernie Beck said of his team’s early struggles against NCT pitcher Alyssa Gonzalez. “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.”
The freshman Gonzalez seemingly had the River Ridge (26-3) lineup all figured out, as she held the Royal Knights to just three hits through four innings.
The Lady Sharks (22-5) took a brief 1-0 lead when Chyloe Gonzalez tripled off Makenzie Goluba to begin the fourth inning and Courtney David’s sacrifice fly allowed Gonzalez to score from third.
River Ridge began on the comeback trail in the bottom of the fifth inning after Allysa Lyons singled to start off the frame and Alyssa Gonzalez walked Madisyn Palmer and Morgan Tolle to load up the bases.
Lady 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 Lady Sharks’ bats at bay, striking out five and only allowing three hits for the game.
River Ridge will now face Hernando, which defeated Dunedin 3-1 in another quarterfinal Thursday night.
Correspondent Andy Villamarzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo