By Steve Knapp, SunCoast Sports
LEMON BAY 6, NORTH PORT 6
PUNTA GORDA — North Port rallied with two runs in the seventh inning Thursday night to tie Lemon Bay 6-6 in the Charlotte Preseason Classic tournament.
Trailing 6-4 in the top of the frame, the Bobcats used a pair of walks, a wild pitch, a sacrifice fly and a pair of two-out hits to draw even. Courtny Senna delivered the first run with the fly ball before Taylor Koohns singled and came home on Brianna Mitchell’s double.
Koohns knocked in the first two Bobcats runs with a third-inning single to break a scoreless battle. The senior followed that with a two-run home run to left field to the score at 4-4 in the fifth.
“I didn’t know the ball was a homer until I noticed nobody was moving,” said Koohns, who finished 3-for-4 with four runs batted in and two scored. “I was sprinting to second and then realized that I hit a homer. I hadn’t been hitting lately so I actually did my job tonight.”
Koohns is one of a handful of talented seniors.
“Our strength is in our senior class. All of them can swing the bat with power so we’re going to score some runs,” coach Dennis Bell said. “We lack experience with our pitching staff as all three of them are freshmen, and this season will be a little bit of a learning curve for them. They (pitchers) did a great job tonight and I couldn’t ask for anything more from them. We made a couple of costly errors, but our team is in a good spot.”
Both teams started freshmen lefthanders in the circle, and they both pitched well. Nadia Playter gave up four runs — two earned — in the fourth inning when Lemon Bay took a 4-2 lead.
Pinch hitters Christian Chandler doubled in the first run and Rayne Wells singled in the second. Leanna Kelly followed with a two-run double.
After Koohns’ home tied the game for the Bobcats, the Mantas took the lead in the sixth when Wells led off with a single and scored on starting pitcher Bailey Grossenbacher’s double. Kasi Shaffer followed with a double and another two-run lead to set up the Bobcats rally.
“Top to bottom we have a good team,” said Lemon Bay coach Kim Pinkham, whose roster shows only three seniors. “We have people who can play multiple positions and we can hit. It’ll take time to find out where everybody can hit, but we’re in no hurry.”
Lemon Bay had a chance to win in its half of the seventh after Brooke Kvaternick led off with a double. However, the Bobcats stranded her to preserve the tie.
“It’s very frustrating not to score after leading off with a double,” she said. “We could’ve won, we just didn’t do the little things.”
Added Shaffer: “We could’ve won, definitely. We have a young team and we haven’t jelled yet. We will by the end of the season.”
Both teams finished the Classic with 0-1-1 records. Lemon Bay lost to host Charlotte 2-1 and North Port dropped its opener 12-7 to North Fort Myers when the Red Knights rallied for five runs in the seventh inning.
NORTH FORT MYERS 8, CHARLOTTE 5
PUNTA GORDA — A seventh-inning rally fell short Thursday night as host Charlotte dropped an 8-5 decision to North Fort Myers in the final game of the Tarpons preseason Classic.
Charlotte had six hits to match six strikeouts, and had runners on base all night with the help of five walks and three hit batters. However, the Tarpons just couldn’t get the big hit when they needed it.
Senior shortstop Marissa Stack and freshman catcher Kaitlyn Hopper collected four of the hits. Stack went 3-for-3 with a walk, drove in two runs and scored once. Hopper was 1-for-2 with two RBIs and a run scored. Hopper also reached base on a walk and was hit by a pitch.
“I was really nervous out there in the beginning. I have big shoes to fill following TK (Taylor Kirkus) who’s in basketball season right now,” Hopper said. “I have to make sure I try my best out there every time.”
Charlotte scored when Kerstyn Shaw was hit by a pitch sandwiched between a pair of strikeouts in the fourth inning. Lead-off hitter Kaylee Brannon picked up a free pass and both came home on Stack’s single.
Stack and Abby Hayse led off the seventh with hits and both scored on Hopper’s long double. Kaylie Chavarria’s sacrifice fly brought in Hopper to make it 8-5. Starting pitcher Haley Cabral was hit by a pitch to put the tying run on deck, but a ground out ended the game.
The Tarpons scored in only two innings while Red Knights scored in all but two innings. They hit for the cycle with a first-inning homer, second inning double and a third inning triple to go along with 11 singles.
Charlotte visits North Fort Myers Thursday for its second game of the season so Coach Greg Higgins didn’t show everything in his bag of tricks. The Tarpons finished the event 1-1 after a 2-1 win over Lemon Bay in their other game.
“We can’t show them everything we have,” Higgins said. “This preseason game doesn’t mean a thing, next week is when it counts. This was a game where you don’t want to be happy with it, but you can be satisfied with it.
“This was a building game to know where we have to be. We have a very tough schedule this year but that’ how we get better, by playing the best. I’m not happy with tonight’s game but I am satisfied.”