By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — Charlotte is looking for a lucky number four tonight in its regional semifinal at Fort Myers.
With losses of 6-1 and 5-3 in the regular season, and a 6-2 defeat in the District 7A-11 championship, the Tarpons find themselves with a rare fourth opportunity in the same season to get a win over a rival when the teams meet again tonight in a Region 7A-3 semifinal.
“The one that hurts the most is the district championship,” Charlotte coach Greg Higgins said Monday. “You’d like to be district champ, no doubt. At the same time, we thought to ourselves, ‘hopefully we regroup, get ourselves together and comeback to play them again.’ And here we are.”
Charlotte rebounded after that district championship loss to defeat Gulf Coast 10-2 in the regional quarterfinals. The Tarpons had six hits with runners in scoring position in the win over the Sharks, something they weren’t able to do in any of the losses against the Green Wave.
“We’ve worked so hard on what we call non-productive outs,” Higgins said. “So when we go into a game, we expect to win. When we get beat, we want to know they beat us because they were better than us.”
Although Fort Myers was the better team three times against Charlotte, they haven’t always been the better team all season. One way to judge two teams, is in performance against common opponents.
For the purpose of this example, let’s use district foe Venice since both Charlotte and Fort Myers defeated the other district opponent, North Port, by more than 20 runs.
The Green Wave split a pair of games against the Indians this season, while scoring a total of four runs. The Tarpons won each of its three games against Venice this season, totaling 22 runs in those games, including an 11-4 win in the district semifinals.
When you compare the 22 runs in three games against Venice to the six runs in three games against the Green Wave, the Tarpons knew they had their work cut out for them during this week’s preparations.
Charlotte has worked on situational hitting, execution of signs, and tried to simulate the playing conditions at Fort Myers.
“We know their field is a lot harder than ours,” pitcher Julie Dedrick said. “We’ve been taking ground balls on concrete, so that we can expect the bad hops.”
Higgins has some tricks up his sleeve at the ready for tonight. He also did something during practice this week that he typically doesn’t like to do: pitch.
“I had a couple of girls ask me to do it,” the coach said. “They know the reason I don’t throw is because I don’t want to injure anybody. It took me a while to get in the right rhythm, and once I did, I decided to listen to them.”
The Tarpons feel confident headed into the fourth bout against Fort Myers, and don’t need any extra motivation to get excited. Just ask Dedrick.
“(Tuesday) means a lot more,” she said. “We’ve let them get in our heads every time, and we’re not going to do that (Tuesday).”
“I think sometimes when you beat a team three times it’s like an ‘oh, we have to play them again’ attitude,” he said. “While our attitude is ‘oh, we hope we can play them again,’ and I think that’s going to be the difference.”