By Rick Nolte, Sports Editor
FORT MYERS — Thursday’s District 6A-11 championship came down to capitalizing on opportunities. Fort Myers did and Charlotte didn’t.
The result was a 6-2 victory for the Green Wave (19-6) and a third straight district title. Fort Myers delivered a sacrifice fly and three hits with runners in scoring position while the Tarpons (18-5) managed just one hit with runners in that spot.
“It seemed like every time we needed the big hit, it didn’t happen,” said Charlotte coach Greg Higgins, whose team dropped both regular season games to the Green Wave (5-3 and 6-1). “They got the key hit they needed it seemed like every time and we didn’t.”
Both teams advance to Wednesday’s regional semifinals. Fort Myers will be at home as the champion while Charlotte will be on the road.
Fort Myers had only two more hits than Charlotte (8-6), but it was the situations in which they came that resulted in the victory. The Green Wave left only two runners on base while Charlotte stranded six.
The Wave scored off a sacrifice fly in the first inning, then got consecutive two-out hits in a three-run fourth to lead 4-0. After Tiffany Dodson led off the fifth with a home run, Fort Myers finished off its scoring with two runs in the bottom half of the inning after one was out.
Charlotte scored its final run in the sixth, but ended the inning with two runners on. The Tarpons loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, but couldn’t scratch.
“A lot in this game could’ve gone either way,” Fort Myers coach Johnny Manetta said. “One thing goes right and one other thing goes wrong and we’re looking at a different ballgame. I knew (Charlotte) would battle us until the last out.”
Hannah Perkins had the interesting distinction of earning the win and the save for Fort Myers. The right-hander, who was perfect through the first three innings, got an out in the sixth before giving way to Emily Hendry.
She replaced Hendry with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh and ended the threat with a strikeout and a flyout. Perkins gave up four hits and both Charlotte runs with no walks and 10 strikeouts.
Julie Dedrick went the first four innings for Charlotte, allowing six hits and four runs with a strikeout. Dodson finished up, giving up two hits and the other runs with a walk and a strikeout.
“Our pitchers did well,” said Higgins, whose team cut down five runners on the base paths, two at home plate and two at third base, to stay in the game.
Madi Thiele had two hits and a run batted in for Fort Myers while Riley Ludlum had a two-run triple and Molly Duignan a two-run double. Duignan also had the defensive play of the game, diving to snag a sinking line drive by Taylor Kirkus then doubling off Kaylee Brannon at second base to end Charlotte’s first threat of the game in the fourth.
“Molly knew she had to lay out and give up her body in a situation like that,” Manetta said. “She made the play and then doubled them up. It was a great play.
“If that ball lands just in front of her, we could be looking at a different mind set going into the later innings.”
Added Higgins: “We’re thinking run right there on that ball and (Duignan) made a tough catch. Then, she comes in and gets a big hit in the bottom of the inning.”
Brannon, batting leadoff, was the only player for the Tarpons with two hits. She also scored the other run on a single by Kirkus off Henry in the sixth.
FORT MYERS 6, CHARLOTTE 2
Charlotte 000 011 0 — 2 6 0
Fort Myers 100 203 x — 6 8 0
WP: Hannah Perkins; LP: Julie Dedrick, Save: Perkins. Leading hitters: (CHA) Kaylee Brannon 2-4, R; Tiffany Dodson HR; Taylor Kirkus, RBI. (FM) Madi Thiele 2-2, RBI, R; Riley Ludlam 3B, 2 RBI, R; Molly Duignan 2B, 2 RBI, R; Meghen Kline RBI. Records: Charlotte 18-5, Fort Myers 19-6.