County softball teams go 3-for-3 in region quarters

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

SPRING HILL – Three Hernando County prep softball entered regional play on Wednesday, and all three will be back in action for next Tuesday’s semifinals.
That’s the situation after Hernando, Nature Coast and Springstead all recorded quarterfinal wins to advance to the Sweet 16.
For the Lady Eagles, seeking their second straight trip to the Elite Eight after repeating as Class 6A, District 6 champions last week, it was another day at the office for senior pitcher Kama Woodall.
The right-hander bound for North Carolina State is a veteran of postseason play going back to her days leading St. Petersburg-Canterbury to two state titles and three Final Fours. Against visiting Groveland-South Lake in a 6A-Region 2 match-up, she twirled a perfect game as Springstead collected a 10-0 victory in five innings.
“It was my defense tonight. It wasn’t one of my best games. It was our defense’s excellent game. Not an error was made, every play was converted,” Woodall said. “I’d say a good word for it is steady, because we got knocked down a little bit (in the district final) against Crystal River. And this time we just had to play our game at a steady pace instead of playing up and down, fluctuating. We just had to play steady.
“Right now, we’re just balancing the adrenaline of being in these big games and the knowledge that every single one could be our last one. We’re just trying to play our game.”
Woodall struck out six over her five frames, as the South Lake Lady Eagles (11-16) didn’t get a ball out of the infield. The only out that wasn’t a strikeout or a grounder came on a fantastic catch of a short pop-up by catcher Paige Pfent in the third inning.
“She’s dialed in. She’s got her playoff face on and she was perfect tonight, what can you say?” Springstead head coach Craig Swartout said of Woodall. “I was very pleased with the way we came out swinging the bats tonight. We got contributions one through nine, so that’s going to bode well for us.”
It was Pfent who got the scoring underway in the bottom of the first, smashing a line drive over the head of the center fielder for a double and a run batted in. Kayla Cruz doubled off the fence in center two batters later, making it 2-0.
Springstead's Paige Pfent lays off a low pitch against South Lake on Wednesday night. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

Delaney Woodall hit a sacrifice fly to left in the third, preceding a RBI single Pfent lined off the pitcher. Cruz added a two-run single up the middle that increased the lead to 6-0.
In the fourth, Kama Woodall scorched a groundball that hit hard off the first baseman for a run-scoring infield single, Cruz notched her second sac fly, this time to center, and Emily Kolwicz singled to right to create a 9-0 advantage. Courtesy runner Audrey Selby accounted for the final run of the inning, scampering home on a wild pitch.
Jenna Ryan of Springstead watches a ball go by during an at-bat Wednesday night. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

The Springstead Lady Eagles (24-4) will now host Belleview in a semifinal on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Springstead defeated the Lady Rattlers on April 13, 3-1.
“I think we’re starting to peak at the right time. The season is a long season, and it’s tough to get up for every game,” Swartout said. “I think with the district tournament and the state playoffs now, the girls are rejuvenated. The juices are going again and I think we’re on track to hopefully do some good things this year.”
Over at Tom Varn Park, Hernando posted its own five-inning triumph, 12-2 over Port Orange-Atlantic in a 5A-2 quarterfinal.
“Any time you get a win in five innings, you win 12-2, you’re happy,” Hernando head coach Kevin Bittinger said. “The girls played well. It was good stuff.”
The Lady Leopards (20-9) scored five times in the bottom of the first, starting with a Kaylee Frascatore RBI single followed by a grand slam by Ali Bronson.
A Josey Sims groundout plus singles by Ali Shenefield and Janea Mobley combined to plate four more runs and balloon the lead to 9-0 in the second.
“Obviously, Ali had a big hit, a grand slam with two outs,” Bittinger said. “But to come back in the second inning and score four more runs is a credit to the kids. We had 13 hits tonight. We’re dialed in offensively and it goes back to the way they work in the cage. Last week and this week, that work is starting to pay off.”
Bronson doubled home a run in the fourth, before Atlantic (11-8) scored twice in the top of the fifth on a double by Shannon Reilly. Taliyah Dowdell tripled and Frascatore singled in a run apiece in the bottom of the fifth to invoke the mercy rule.
Nature Coast visited Orlando-Bishop Moore Catholic in another 5A-2 quarterfinal, and left with a 4-0 win.
Abby Marshall’s RBI triple broke a scoreless time in the top of the fifth. Abbey Primavera plated two runs on a base hit in the seventh, and Cerina Brooks tacked on a run-scoring single. Marshall, Celine Kordon and Morgan Johnson each had two hits in support of Primavera’s complete-game effort, featuring seven hits and no walks with six strikeouts.
“We played real well,” Nature Coast head coach Jug Olmstead said. “We made some adjustments the second and third time through (the batting order) and everything worked out.”
On Tuesday at Tom Varn, Nature Coast will meet Hernando in a rematch of the 5A-District 7 title game, won by the Lady Leopards last Thursday, 4-0.
“I expect to get Nature Coast’s best,” Bittinger said. “Jug and I talked about it, this rivalry is in a good place. It’s able to bring out the best in these kids. There’s unhealthy rivalries and healthy rivalries, and this is a healthy rivalry. I expect it’s going to be a great game.”
Follow Chris Bernhardt Jr. on Twitter @cpbernhardtjr.

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