SOFTBALL: Opsahl’s walkoff in 11th leads Charlotte over Venice

By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports

Charlotte’s Alyssa Opsahl connects with the ball during the Tarpons home game against Venice (Sun Photo by Jennifer Bruno).

PUNTA GORDA — It was an edge-of-your-seat thriller of scoreless softball between Charlotte and Venice in Punta Gorda Tuesday night.

Charlotte pitcher Tiffany Dodson and Venice’s Haley Adrian went toe-to-toe for 10 innings, each facing high-pressure situations that never phased either ace.

But when the 11th inning finally arrived after two-plus hours, Dodson managed to work out of her final jam of the night while Adrian never could.

Alyssa Opsahl hit a walk-off single to score Kerstyn Shaw in the bottom of the 11th to send the Tarpons to a 1-0 win over the Indians. It’s a big win for Charlotte in the District 7A-11 standings, pushing its record to 2-1 while dropping Venice to 0-3.

“I told these guys ‘hey, (Venice has) lost some close games. This is going to be a dog fight.’ And it was a dog fight,” Charlotte coach Greg Higgins said.

Higgins isn’t kidding. It was another heartbreaking loss for Venice, which has now lost 11 games by a combined 19 runs. (6-11, 0-3).

“We’ve lost four games in extra innings and four in the bottom of the seventh. You can’t make this stuff up. These kids just keep battling along but (Charlotte) did their job,” Venice coach Steve Constantino said. “When they got an opportunity, their hitters came up and got a couple of hits and scored. We had every opportunity in the world. We just couldn’t get the balls across when we needed to. This is how it goes in our district. It’s a war every night.”

Dodson finished the night with five strikeouts but gave up 11 hits. Venice had runners in scoring position eight times, including in the 11th inning, but Dodson always found a way to get a strikeout, a pop out, a ground out or a great play from her defense to keep the Indians off the scoreboard.

Adrian did much of the same. She struck out three Tarpons and surrendered eight hits with two walks and a hit batter.

But after the Tarpons left five runners in scoring position through the first 10 innings, they finally found a way to crack the Venice ace in the 11th.

Haley Cabral knocked a lead off single, Kerstyn Shaw came in to pinch run and and advanced to second on a passed ball. After Taylor Kirkus walked, Dodson hit a sacrifice fly to move Shaw to third and set up Opsahl’s heroics.

Opsahl nailed a pitch over the plate into left field to send a packed crowd in cheers and Charlotte’s dugout into celebration.

“We had bases loaded two times with one out and we just couldn’t get the hit,” Higgins said. “I don’t want to peak because a lot of teams peak and then they go down, but right now I’m looking for that person to just step in and get that hit. Alyssa Opsahl, that was perfect. I talked to her and Tiffany right before that and told them ‘you guys are putting the pressure on you. Take the pressure off and put it on the pitcher. She throws a strike, you rip it,’ and that’s exactly what (Alyssa) did.”

The win gives Charlotte sole possession of second place in the district with a two-game lead over Venice and a one-game lead over North Port.It also keeps Charlotte just a game back of district leader Fort Myers, which travels to Punta Gorda Friday night.

“That was two programs that waned it good and two teams that were very competitive just toe-to-toe going at it.”

“Now we can control our own destiny Friday night against Fort Myers and that’s huge.”

Venice 000 000 000 00 — 0 11 2
Charlotte 000 000 000 01 — 1 8 1

WP: Tiffany Dodson. LP: Haley Adrian. Leading hitters: (C) Alyssa Opsahl 2-5, RBI; Abby Hayse 2-4, BB; (V) Antonia Rosa 3-5, Haley Kimble 3-4. Records: Charlotte (11-4, 2-1), Venice (6-11, 0-3).

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