By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — When Charlotte High School pitcher Tiffany Dodson faced off against Bishop Verot a season ago, things didn’t go quite as planned.
The first batter she faced sent a rocket out of the ballpark, the first of 11 runs on the night for the eventual Class 4A state champions.
Bu the rematch Tuesday night was a much different story, one Dodson was ready to write from the very start.
Dodson threw a 2-hit, complete-game shutout to lead Charlotte to a 2-0 victory over Bishop Verot at home. Abby Hayes went 2-for-3 for the Tarpons, driving in both runs.
But it was Dodson who stole the show, considering she had never thrown a full seven innings in her career. She finished with six strikeouts and didn’t walk a batter.
“Last year (against Bishop Verot) I wasn’t on top of my game. I wasn’t where I am now,” Dodson said.
“One of girls in the first at-bat, first pitch, jacked one out so coming back I said I was going to get her out and I got her out. Once I got one of their biggest hitters out, I was like, ‘hey, I’ve got this.’ It was a very good game all around.”
Dodson only let one ball leave the infield the entire night and her six strikeouts all came in the first three innings. Eight of the final 12 outs came via ground balls and two more came on a double pickoff when Bishop Verot had runners on first and second in the sixth with one out.
“She just hit her spots. I taught her a rise ball literally right before we played the game tonight and the changeup and she threw both of them and it worked,” Charlotte coach Greg Higgins said. “I kept on her hollering, ‘work! work! work!’ because I didn’t want her to lose any concentration. With a team like this, every pitch is critical, every batter is critical so you have to keep that concentration and keep pounding that strike zone and she did it.”
Hayes put Charlotte on the board in the first with an RBI double that scored Marissa Stark, who previously singled and advanced to second base on a passed ball. The junior slugger put another run on the board in the fifth with an RBI single that scored Kaylee Brannon after Brannon hit a two-out double.
Bishop Verot pitcher Nicole Fortner-Rodriguez also threw a complete game, giving up those two runs on five hits with 10 strikeouts. Her offense had a great chance to pick her up and tie the game in the sixth before Hayes made the play of the night on defense.
With runners on first and second with one out, the Vikings sent both runners on a double steal. Catcher Kaitlyn Hopper threw the ball down to Hayes, who tagged Mallory Volz out coming from first before throwing Fortner-Rodriguez out at the plate.
Those were the last base runners of the night for the Vikings.
“That was softball. I told the girls, ‘Tonight, if you’re in-between these white lines, you better give me everything you’ve got.’ And they did. That was incredible. I’m happy for the girls. I’m happy for the program,” Higgins said.
CHARLOTTE 2, BISHOP VEROT 0
Bishop Verot 000 000 0 — 0 2 0
Charlotte 100 010 x — 2 5 1
WP: Dodson. LP: Fortner-Rodriguez. Leading Hitters: Abby Hayes (CH) 2-3, 2B, 2 RBI; Kaylee Brannon (CH) 1-3, 2B, R; Marissa Stark (CH) 1-2, R, BB. Records: Charlotte 2-1, Bishop Verot 2-1.