By Bruce Robins, Sun Correspondent
NORTH PORT — All season long, Venice High softball coach Steve Constantino has been waiting for a breakout game from his team.
Friday night, that game finally came, as the Indians rolled past North Port, 10-2, in a District 7A-11. Venice pounded 13 hits, three apiece by Antonia Rosa, Caitlin Cristello and Elsie Rivera, and the Bobcats couldn’t overcome another slow start.
“This is the same game the girls have played all year, except for those key hits when we needed them,” Constantino said. “This is a game we had to win and our girls really came to play tonight. We’re doing it at the right time of year.”
North Port defeated Venice, 4-3, in the first game between the teams this year, but this time it was all Indians.
Venice jumped on top in the first inning as Rosa led off with a single and Haley Hendrick was hit by a pitch. Rosa moved up to third on a fly ball to center and scored on Cristello’s groundout to first.
The Indians got two more runs off Bobcats starter Ashley Nelson without the benefit of a hit in the second inning, and made it 4-0 in the third on a bases-loaded walk by Tess Rosa. Venice stretched the lead to 5-0 in the top of the fifth as Cristello singled, was sacrificed to second, and scored on a base hit by Tess Rosa.
The Bobcats showed signs of life in the bottom of the fifth as Brianna Heider led off with a hit and Kylie Murray singled to put runners on first and second. Nelson followed with a double to the gap in left-center to score both runners and cut the margin to 5-2.
At that point, Syd Seibert relieved starter Haley Adrian and shut the door on the Bobcats the rest of the way.
The Indians sent 10 batters to the plate in the top of the sixth inning and broke the game open with five runs. Cristello had an RBI single and Rivera followed with a two-run double as Venice improved to 1-3 in the district and 7-11 overall.
“Our infield made some great plays on defense,” Constantino said. “They made them look like routine plays. We’ve played this good all year long. To lose 11 games by a total of 19 runs will tell you how well we’ve played. We just haven’t gotten the hits at the times we’ve needed them.”
Meanwhile, North Port coach Dennis Bell was left looking for answers as the Bobcats fell to 10-7 overall and 1-3 in district play.
“Kylie Murray and Ashley Nelson, our 1-2 hitters, have been consistent all year,” Bell said. “I need my 3-4-5-6 batters to find their stroke again. We have people in scoring position, but we need to get them around.”
Nelson went five innings, giving up 10 hits and seven runs before giving way to Liberty Pence in the top of the sixth.
“Ashley was fine tonight,” Bell said. “They hit her a little bit, but we didn’t compete offensively. We have to be able to put up more than two runs on the board in this district. We have to find what we had at the beginning of the season and bring it back and we’ll be OK.”
VENICE 10, NORTH PORT 2
Venice 121 015 0 — 10 13 0
North Port 000 020 0 — 2 5 2
WP: Haley Adrian; LP: Ashley Nelson. Leading hitters: (V) Caitlin Cristello 3-4, 2 runs, 2 RBI; Elsie Rivera 3-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Antonia Rosa 3-4, 2 runs; (NP) Kylie Murray 2-4, run; Ashley Nelson 2-3, 2B, 2 RBI.