By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — It’s been a rollercoaster softball season for Charlotte. There have been winning streaks, losing streaks, freak injuries and even a three-way tiebreaker that didn’t break the Tarpons way.
But through it all, confidence hasn’t wavered in the Charlotte dugout, despite the fact the Tarpons must defeat top-seeded Fort Myers on Tuesday to return to the Class 7A regional playoffs after losing a tiebreaker to North Port and Venice for seeding in the district tournament.
It seems a bit of a daunting task, considering Fort Myers (23-2) has defeated Charlotte (15-10) eight straight times and is ranked sixth in the stateoverall, first in Class 7A.
So how exactly do the Tarpons pull off the upset?
“Intensity. We have to jump on them fast and jump on them hard,” Charlotte first baseman/ pitcher Tiffany Dodson said.
That’s something Fort Myers did to Charlotte in both meetings this season. The Green Wave scored six runs through the first three innings in Fort Myers and then came back to score 10 in the first two innings in Charlotte.
With the way those games unfolded, and the fact Fort Myers holds an eight-game winning streak in the rivalry, you’d think there’s a stigma for Charlotte. But Dodson and company have a quiet confidence going into the District 7A-11 semifinal due to their recent play.
Even though the Tarpons won just four of their last seven, their hitting has improved as they’ve scored at least five runs in all but one of those games while scoring six in two of the three losses. The recent offensive resurgence followed a three-game losing streak — all against district foes — that saw Charlotte score a total of six runs in its lowest point of the season.
“I took over the hitting and we went to doing some things we don’t normally do. We’re doing real fast things,” Charlotte coach Greg Higgins said. “I think we were having trouble catching up to the ball.
“Now we’re seeing the ball in a good way, like it’s a big ball. When the girls are up to bat now, instead of it looking like a softball, it’s looking more like a volleyball coming at them, figuratively. I’ve just sped the game up fast and it’s been working.”
That was evident when the Tarpons went to Ocala for a tournament earlier this month. They went 3-1 on the trip, outscoring opponents 24-12 to restore their faith in the batter’s box.
“It was a big boost. We saw a lot better pitching, a lot better defense and normally after that tournament we play 100 times better,” Dodson said. “We wish it was just a little bit earlier in the season so we had more of a boost.”
But even that trip was a roller coaster of emotion as the Tarpons lost their top hitter to injury. Haley Cabral, who was hitting an area-best .446, suffered a slight anklefracture sliding into third base against Lake Weir and is likely done
for the season.
Without Cabral, Charlotte finished the season 2-3 but it hasn’t been due to the offense. Abby Hayse has her average over .400 and four other Tarpons are hitting .325 or better.
“(Cabral) was our No. 1 hitter, but some people just had to dig deep,” Higgins said. “When we sped the game up, those people were either going to step or get lost and they stepped up.”
Higgins will find out if his practice methods pay off Tuesday night. He sees the potential in his squad and hopes the tough schedule Charlotte played this season yields the result he’s finally looking for — a win over Fort Myers.
“We played great ball when we went to Ocala. We’re playing good ball now. We’re hitting the ball and I’m really excited about Tuesday,” Higgins said. “I don’t look at the record. I look at the teams that have beaten us and the teams we’ve beaten and I’m happy. I’m happy with where we are right now. We’re in a good place. It isn’t about the record now. It’s about Fort Myers.”
Participating teams: Fort Myers, North Port, Venice, Charlotte
Schedule: Tuesday-Game 1: 3. Venice at 2. North Port, 7 p.m.; Game
2: 4. Charlotte at 1. Fort Myers 7 p.m.; Thursday-Game 3: Championship, Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 7 p.m.
Participating teams: North Fort Myers, Mariner, Ida Baker, Port Charlotte, Cape Coral, Island Coast, Cypress Lake
Schedule: Monday-Game 1: 5. Cape Coral at 4. Port Charlotte; Game 2: 7. Cypress Lake at 2. Mariner 7 p.m.; Game 3: 6. Island Coast at 3. Ida Baker; Wednesday-Game 4: Game 1 winner at 1. North Fort Myers, 7 p.m.; Game 5: Gamer 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 7 p.m.; Friday-Game 6: Championship, Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 7 p.m.
Participating teams: DeSoto County, Lemon Bay, Lake Placid, Dunbar
Schedule: Tuesday-Game 1: 3. Lake Placid at 2. Lemon Bay, 7 p.m.; Game 2: Dunbar at DeSoto County, 7 p.m.; Thursday-Game 3: Championship, Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 7 p.m.
North Port: 15-10 (2-4 in 7A-11)
Charlotte: 15-10 (2-4 in 7A-11)
Lemon Bay: 11-11 (4-2 in 5A-12)
Port Charlotte: 6-18 (6-6 in 6A-11)
STATISTICS (THRU APRIL 23)
Hitting (minimum 25 at-bats)
Player School H AB AVG
Haley Cabral Charlotte 25 56 .446
Brittany Ferrentino Port Charlotte 26 60 .433
Abby Hayse Charlotte 36 85 .424
Kylie Murray North Port 36 87 .414
Kaylee Brannon Charlotte 32 83 .386
Aimee Holt Lemon Bay 25 65 .385
Tiffany Dodson Charlotte 28 73 .384
Ashley Nelson North Port 27 71 .380
Jaiden Dabney Port Charlotte 26 69 .377
Bailey Grossenbacher Lemon Bay 23 62 .371
Christain Chandler Lemon Bay 23 63 .365
Alyssa Opsahl Charlotte 21 61 .344
Olivia Hernandez Port Charlotte 22 65 .338
Alyssa Allred Port Charlotte 12 36 .333
Kasi Shaffer Lemon Bay 23 69 .333
Taylor Innello Port Charlotte 15 46 .326
Taylor Kirkus Charlotte 25 77 .325
Logan Johnson Lemon Bay 22 70 .314
Skylar Poitras North Port 16 52 .308
3: Tiffany Dodson, Charlotte; Brianna Mitchell, North Port; Kasi Shaffer, Lemon Bay
2: Kaylee Brannon, Charlotte
1: Abby Hayse, Charlotte; Taylor Kirkus, Charlotte; Brooke Kvaternick, Lemon Bay; Ashley Nelson, North Port; Alyssa Opsahl, Charlotte; Cortney Senna, North Port; Seaaria Yiengst, Port Charlotte
Runs batted in
27: Brianna Mitchell, North Port
23: Logan Johnson, Lemon Bay
21: Tiffany Dodson, Charlotte; Kasi Shaffer, Lemon Bay
17: Bailey Grossenbacher, Lemon Bay
16: Taylor Kirkus, Charlotte; Karlie Sweiderk, Lemon Bay
15: Abby Hayse, Charlotte; Aimee Holt, Lemon Bay; Brooke Kvaternick, Lemon Bay; Ashley Nelson, North Port
14: Kaylee Brannon, Charlotte; Jaiden Dabney, Port Charlotte; Skylar Poitras, North Port
13: Ali Eugenius, Port Charlotte; Cortney Senna, North Port
11: Alyssa Allred, Port Charlotte; Seaaira Yiengst, Port Charlotte
10: Destiny Ashcraft, Lemon Bay; Christian Chandler, Lemon Bay; Taylor Koohns, North Port
Pitching (min. 25 innings)
Player School W-L S IP K ERA
Tiffany Dodson Charlotte 8-5 0 78.1 44 1.88
Julie Dedrick Charlotte 7-4 1 79.0 52 2.24
Ashley Nelson North Port 7-4 0 75.0 53 2.20
Liberty Pence North Port 7-4 0 55.0 48 2.63
Bailey Grossenbacher Lemon Bay 3-6 1 59.2 49 3.40
Logan Johnson Lemon Bay 8-5 1 73.1 40 3.44
Seaaira Yiengst Port Charlotte 6-11 0 92.1 75 4.93