By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
ARCADIA — Much like last year’s District 5A-12 title game, the first meeting of the 2017 season between Lemon Bay and DeSoto County could have swung either way Friday night.
But just last year’s championship, it was the Bulldogs who came out on top once again.
DeSoto County rallied from a 2-run deficit with two runs apiece in the fourth and fifth innings before holding on late for a 6-5 victory over Lemon Bay at home. The Manta Rays staged a seventh-inning rally with two runs on a 2-RBI single by Karlie Sweiderk, but left runners stranded on second and first base when DeSoto County pitcher Hannah England got Brooke Kvaternick to pop out to second to end the game.
The win pushes DeSoto County to 2-0 in the district standings while dropping Lemon Bay to 1-1. The Manta Rays out-hit the Bulldogs 11-6, including a solo home run by Kasi Shaffer, but their pitching duo of Bailey Grossenbacher and Logan Johnson combined to walk eight batters in addition to throwing two wild pitches.
The game turned on Johnson’s wild pitch in the fourth inning, which allowed the tying run to score while advancing Shea Lipe to third base. Lipe was later able to score on an RBI groundout by England, a run she wouldn’t have scored had it not been for Johnson’s error.
“We hit the ball well tonight. We were very pleased from that side of it. It’s tough when you out-hit a team 11-6 and you lose 6-5,” Lemon Bay coach Kim Pinkham said. “They kept going, they kept fighting and they kept hitting the ball hard. It was great. But it’s hard when you keep giving them so many opportunities with walks and errors and wild pitches so that part was tough. But we saw what we have to beat if we want to be a district champion.”
England struck out five Manta Rays, including two in a high-pressure final inning.
“Hannah is having problems right now in the seventh innings finishing games. But [Lemon Bay’s] lineup at that point was pretty good. That was a good battle for her,” DeSoto County coach Mike Jeter said. “Even though giving up the two runs in the end, she faced the girl that hit the home run and a solid part of the lineup so she’s going to build from that.”
An RBI double by Johnson and an RBI single by Holt gave Lemon Bay an early 2-0 lead in the top of second inning, but DeSoto County cut into that advantage on an RBI single by DeKoda Johnson, who went 2-for-3 with three RBI. Shaffer’s home run to dead centerfield put the Manta Rays up 3-1 in the third, but the Bulldogs continued to stay within a run when Malyssa Jeter scored on a throwing error in the bottom of the inning.
After Johnson and Lipe scored to put the Bulldogs ahead for good in the fourth, Johnson added some insurance with a two-out, two-run homer off of Lemon Bay’s Johnson.
Johnson was saddled with the loss in relief after replacing Grossenbacher after just 2 1/3 innings of work. They reach struck out a pair of batters but struggled to throw strikes throughout the night with their free passes and errant throws.
“Both these pitchers can’t struggle at the same time. It’s not allowed. One can struggle but you can’t have two,” Pinkham said.” They had to throw a lot of pitches. More than we need to. We’ve got to keep things simple.”
DESOTO COUNTY 6, LEMON BAY 5
Lemon Bay 021 000 2 — 5 11 2
DeSoto County 011 220 x — 6 6 1
WP: Hannah England. LP: Logan Johnson. Leading hitters: (DC) DeKoda Johnson 2-3, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB; (LB) Kasi Shaffer 2-4, HR; Logan Johnson 2-3, RBI, R; Aimee Holt 2-3, RBI, R; Karlie Sweiderk 1-4, 2 RBI