By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
NAPLES — Last week’s loss in the district championships proved to just be a bump in the road, as Charlotte High School responded in a big way Thursday.
The Tarpons defeated Gulf Coast 10-2 in the Region 7A-3 quarterfinals to keep their season alive.
“We just kept plugging away and adjusting,” Charlotte coach Greg Higgins said. “We had an inning where they were starting to get momentum, and I think stopping them there was the big key to the game, and stopping that momentum swing.”
Charlotte got to the Gulf Coast bullpen in the fourth inning with a pair of runners in scoring position. New pitcher Leyla Yonlinsky got her first batter to fly out, but didn’t win the battle with Abby Hayse, who delivered a two-run double to give the Tarpons a 4-1 lead.
Hayse also had an RBI double in the first inning, which Kaylee Brannon used to score from first base after a leadoff walk.
In a game where light rain fell for most of the night, the weather was at its worst during the top of the third inning, and the Tarpons took advantage.
Gulf Coast starter Courtney Cormiel struggled to get a good grip on the ball, which the Tarpons used to remain patient and scratch across a run. After a Tiffany Dodson walk loaded the bases, Kaylie Chavarria drew another walk to give Charlotte what was a 2-0 lead at the time.
There were three close calls in the game. All three calls went in the favor of Charlotte. Brannon’s first run narrowly beat the tag from catcher Diane Servideo was the first call to go against Gulf Coast, but perhaps the most important came in the third inning.
The Sharks had already scored a run in the frame to bring the score to 2-1 with one out. Gaby Bockhaut stole third base, but catcher Taylor Kirkus delivered a strike right to Brannon covering third for an out.
Gulf Coast coach Amy Lovett protested all three plays, but to no avail.
Supported by a strong defensive effort behind her, Charlotte starting pitcher Julie Dedrick cruised to a win. Dedrick allowed two runs on six hits while striking out four.
“We came here to win tonight,” Dedrick said. “We pumped each other up, and we were ready. We executed and did our best to get the win.”
She was relieved by Tiffany Dodson in the sixth inning, who left an inherited runner stranded on base, and got three big outs in the inning Higgins referred to above.
Brannon and Marissa Stack combined for three RBI on their basehits in the fifth inning, to add to Charlotte’s lead and give them an 8-1 lead. Brannon scored a team-high three runs.
Charlotte will go on to face Fort Myers in the regional semifinals, after the Green Wave defeated Naples 9-1 in the quarterfinals. The Tarpons lost in all three meetings against Fort Myers this season.
“It’s a mindset,” Higgins said. “We’ve talked about it since we last lost to them. I think we’re ready to battle and do a lot better against them.”
CHARLOTTE 10, GULF COAST 2
Charlotte 101 330 2 — 10 12 0
Gulf Coast 001 100 0 — 2 7 3
WP: Julie Dedrick. LP: Courtney Cormiel. Leading hitters: Kaylee Brannon 2-4, 3 R, 3 RBI; Abby Hayse 2-5, 2 2B, 3 RBI. Records: Charlotte 18-4. Gulf Coast 12-9.