SPRING HILL – A throng of pro scouts stood at the top of the Springstead softball stands, lined up with the pitching mound on the adjacent baseball field.
Their radar guns were pointed at Mitchell senior Cobi Johnson, a right-hander already signed with FSU and possessor of a fastball exceeding 90 miles per hour.
Johnson hadn’t thrown in over a month due to a shoulder/arm injury, but was able to take the ball for Wednesday’s Class 6A, District 10 semifinal against the host Eagles.
He didn’t necessarily dominate, but he certainly didn’t disappoint throwing or hitting the ball, helping third-seeded Mitchell upend second-seeded Springstead, 3-2.
“I’m excited, this team’s excited,” Mitchell head coach Scot Wilcox said. “Even if we did have him on a pitch count, 50 pitches of Cobi is better than no Cobi. We all rally around him and we all feel good for him that he is back and he’s healthy, and it definitely motivates the team.”
The Mustangs (16-10) had lost on this same field in their only meeting with the Eagles (11-14) during the regular season, 10-6 on April 8.
They jumped out in front quickly this time, getting a one-out single in the top of the first inning by Zack Detty followed by Johnson lacing a double to left.
That put runners on second and third for Kyle Frick, who lifted a long fly ball to center for a sacrifice fly.
Springstead got one back in the bottom half when Will Pagan wrapped a single to left, yet Mitchell responded with Karmen Powers’ RBI single in the second.
The top of the third set up as almost a carbon copy of the opening frame, with Johnson following Detty’s one-out single with a double to left.
This time, Frick lined a base hit up the middle to bring home Detty and make it 3-1.
On the mound, Johnson tossed three innings, giving up the run on two hits and three walks while striking out three.
Ryan Slaughter relieved him to start the fourth and went the rest of the way, limiting the Eagles to one hit, Joe Jefford’s RBI single in the fifth.
“It’s been a really up-and-down year,” Springstead head coach Jim Diven said. “We’ve had many games just like this, right in it and a ball hit here, a ball hit there; it’d be a different outcome. It’s just been really the story of our season.
“I think we did great job against (Johnson). I was actually surprised that they pitched him because he hadn’t pitched in a long time. There were actually 8-10 scouts here watching. I didn’t see anything special. I can see if he was on it’d be a different story, but he wasn’t. I thought because of that we would win. We just couldn’t break through.”
Diven expressed disappointment for his seniors, particularly Pagan, whom he had first coached in Little League when Pagan was 9 years old.
Pagan, who also walked twice, came on in relief after a leadoff walk in the fourth and tossed four shutouts innings, permitting one hit while hitting two batters.
“I know the seniors are pretty distraught,” Pagan said. “It’s a pretty bad feeling, going out in the first round, compared to what we did last year.”
The Eagles won a district title and advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in 2013, but suffered significant personnel losses from that group.
“It’s a young team. A different team than we had last year. Didn’t have the power,” Diven said. “Our pitching was adequate, but we could use some more experience, I’m sure.
“But all and all, they played well. They shouldn’t be ashamed; I’m not ashamed of our season.”
Mitchell 3, Springstead 2
123 456 7 R H E
MIT 111 000 0 - 3 8 3
SPG 100 010 0 - 2 3 1
MIT - Johnson, Slaughter (4) and Howard.
SPG - Martinez, Pagan (4) and Brosher.
W - Johnson (3-1). L - Martinez (3-3).
2B - Johnson 2, Lamb (MIT); Pagan (SPG).
3B - none.
HR - none.
Records - Mitchell (16-10), Springstead (11-14).