SOFTBALL: Early runs propel Venice over Charlotte

By Scott Lockwood, SunCoast Sports

VENICE — Venice center fielder Antonia Rosa started the 2017 season batting from the right side of the plate, but said she needed a change after some early season struggles.

Rosa decided to try something she’d done in the past but had gotten away from as she got to the high school level: batting left handed.

The speedy sophomore leadoff hitter that’s affectionately known as “Peanut” to her teammates made Charlotte pay from the left side of the plate on Thursday night after she collected four Venice’s 11 hits in a 5-3 District 7A-11 victory.

“I’ve tried to bring it back and I feel like I’m definitely starting to get it down,” Rosa said. “I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

That stiff wind affected Charlotte in the top of the first when a likely two-run homer to left Taylor Kirkus was blown down into the awaiting glove of Venice left fielder Erika Martineau. The Lady Indians struck first when Rosa led off the inning with a single to center and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Caitlin Cristello.

Tess Rosa reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the second and scored on Lindsey Sherwood’s single to left.

“I had the bunt sign up for her but she wiped it out at the last second,” Venice head coach Steve Constantino said. “And she drives in a run on a ground ball. That shows you coaches aren’t always right. The kids know more than the coaches sometimes and that’s why I give them all the credit in the world.”

Sherwood struck again with a one-out double in the fourth. After Antonia Rosa beat out a throw for an infield single, Haley Hendricks hit a single to score Sherwood. Corynne Martin cleared the bases with a two-run double to left-center that highlighted a five-hit inning for Venice.

“We were still pretty confident that we could come back,” Charlotte coach Greg Higgins said. “At 2-0 we knew we could overcome that and even at 5-0 we still thought that if we could get the bats going and some breaks here and there we’d be alright.”

Kaylee Branch got Charlotte on the board with a solo home run off Venice’s Haley Adrian in the top of the fifth. The Tarpons clawed back into contention an inning later when Kirkus led off with a single, Tiffany Dodson reached on a error and Haley Cabral drove in a run on a sacrifice fly. Dodson would also score when Gabby Innello reached on a fielder’s choice.

Charlotte had one last gasp in the top of the seventh. Brannon led off with a single and advanced all the way to third. Syd Seibert walked Kirkus to put the tying run on first, but forced Dodson into a slow ground out to end the game and earn the save.

“Another inning would’ve been nice,” Higgins said. “But the kids fought and at the end of the night it’s two good teams fighting it out.”

Rosa’s collected her final hit in the bottom of the sixth. She also stole three bases in addition to a pair of runs scored.

“You’ve got to look at where they’re playing,” Rosa said. “You have to see if you can lay a bunt down if they’re up toward the plate. It’s a lot different but coach Steve (Constantino) tells you to take a look at where they’re playing. It helps a lot, but you have to see if you’re going to swing all the way or tap it.”

Rosa’s four hits led Venice on a night four players had multiple hits.

“That kid is deadly,” Constantino said of Rosa. “She is the anchor of our offense and she’s been amazing. If she gets the ball in the dirt with her speed, the other team will need a hurricane to slow her down.”

Both teams stand at 2-4 in District 7A-11 play. If North Port loses to Ft. Myers Friday, the teams will draw numbers out of a hat for district seeding. Charlotte heads to Ocala for a tournament this weekend while Venice has three home games next week, starting with a matchup against Manatee on Tuesday.

Charlotte 000 120 0 — 3 4 2
Venice 110 300 x — 5 11 4
WP: Haley Adrian LP: Julie Dedrick Save: Syd Seibert. Top hitters: (C) Kaylee Brannon 2-4, HR; Haley Cabral 1-2, RBI. (V) Antonia Rosa 4-4, 2R, 3 SB; Lindsey Sherwood 2-3, 2B, RBI; Corynne Martin 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI.  Records: Charlotte 11-6, 2-4; Venice 7-12, 2-4.

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