By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
ARCADIA — It was a game that could have gone either way, but in the end, DeSoto County High School delivered in the clutch when Lemon Bay didn’t to take home the District 5A-12 championship.
The Bulldogs scored two runs in the fifth inning to break a tie, and defeated the Manta Rays 5-3 on Thursday.
“At the beginning of the season we talked about how the number one goal was to get to the district championship,” DeSoto County coach Mike Jeter said. “The girls did a phenomenal job to get here. Lemon Bay, all three games we’ve played them, have been battles.
Lauren Rotering had the ultimate game-winning hit, driving in DeKoda Johnson to give DeSoto a late-inning lead, in a game they never trailed.
“It was a much better played game than the two previous games,” Lemon Bay coach Kim Pinkham said. “Defensive mistakes made us play with our backs on the wall. There were little things. Coach Strickland said it perfectly, if you don’t like this feeling, then you need to remember it Monday when you get to practice.”
Lemon Bay starter Logan Johnson got herself in trouble when she allowed the leadoff batter to reach base, as the top of DeSoto’s order did the majority if its damage.
Johnson allowed Shea Lipe to reach base to leadoff the first, third and fifth innings. In all three innings, the Bulldogs scored a run.
Lipe had a leadoff double in the first, and later came around to score on a Malyssa Jeter groundout. DeSoto benefited from four extra base hits in the game, but four of its five runs came on a play where an out was recorded.
Johnson held the bottom-four batters in the Bulldogs lineup to two hits in 12 at-bats, but the top-five batters scored five runs on six hits.
“The top of the order has been steady all year,” Jeter said. “One through six has been steady. We worked hard, and knew if we could get one through six up to the plate four times, we would score some runs.”
The Manta Rays did their best to chip away at DeSoto starting pitcher Hannah England. Lemon Bay put three runners on base in the first two innings before breaking through with a run in the third.
Aimee Holt scored the Manta Rays’ first run when Brooke Kvaternick grounded a single up the middle of the infield. Trailing 3-1 at the time, the Manta Rays came back in the next inning to tie things up. Rayne Wells scored on a wild pitch, and Destiny Ashcraft scored on a Summer Jones sacrifice fly.
“I was struggling a little bit, but my team had my back tonight, so I’m doing OK,” England said.
Lemon Bay had its chance. The Mantas put at least one runner on base in every inning except the seventh, but stranded 10 on base, including six in scoring position.
“They had clutch hits, and we didn’t,” Pinkham said. “They were productive in almost every at-bat. Facing a pitcher who was struggling, we could’ve shown more patience at the plate.”
Both teams will advance to the upcoming Class 5A regional tournament, but their opponents were unknown at the time of print.
DESOTO COUNTY 5, LEMON BAY 3
Lemon Bay 001 200 0 — 5 10 2
DeSoto County 201 020 x — 3 8 0
WP: Hannah England. LP: Logan Johnson. Leading hitters: Shea Lipe (DC) 2-2, 2B, BB, 2 R; Malyssa Jeter (DC) 1-3, 2B, R, 2 RBI; Aimee Holt (LB) 1-2, HBP, BB, R. Records: DeSoto County 17-10, Lemon Bay 12-11.