By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
ENGLEWOOD — Lemon Bay’s softball team came ready to play in Tuesday night’s District 5A-12 semifinal.
Lake Placid, on the the other hand, didn’t even show up on time due to transportation issues.
And it didn’t have a very good first inning, either.
The Manta Rays scored five runs in the first and another in the second to jump on top of the Dragons early, rolling to a 9-3 victory by night’s end. The win clinches a spot in the Class 5A regional quarterfinals for Lemon Bay, which will likely face DeSoto County in Thursday’s district championship game.
Lemon Bay has lost three straight district title games, including last year to DeSoto County.
“We need to win a district championship. I was just telling that to our seniors, who three years in a row have been district runner-up,” Lemon Bay coach Kim Pinkham said. “We’ve got to go after and get it. They didn’t have a lot of fire tonight. I don’t know if it was being at home and being a little too relaxed but we’ve got to come out ready to play.”
Aimee Holt led Lemon Bay’s offense with three RBI on a 2-for-4 night while Destiny Ashcraft drove in two more runs on a 1-for-4 night. But the duo was far from alone in producing offense for the Manta Rays, who also got a solid outing from starting pitcher Logan Johnson.
Johnson pitched a complete-game, giving up three runs — all in the fifth — on six hits with four strikeouts. The Manta Rays also committed zero errors, which have bit them at times throughout the season.
“We’re definitely in the right place. We’re hitting the ball well and playing much better defense. Our pitching is a lot better. All parts of our game are getting better and better, but we’ve got to bring that fire Thursday,” Pinkham said.
Lake Placid starting pitcher Melissa Ojeda didn’t last very long, only recording one out in the first inning before being pulled. Ojeda gave up an RBI single to Holt to load the base before walking home a run to put Lemon Bay up 2-0.
Ashcraft’s 2-RBI single extended the lead to 4-0 and Brooke Kvaternick later scored with the bases loaded when Ojeda was called for an illegal pitch. That was it for Ojeda, who was replaced by Camryn Thomas until returning in the sixth. Christian Chandler hit an RBI single off Thomas in the second inning to give Lemon Bay a 6-0 lead.
Lake Placid made it interesting with three runs in fifth courtesy of Leah Moore’s RBI triple and Kylie Elliot’s 2-run single.
But Lemon Bay got those runs right back in the bottom half of the frame on Johnson’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly and a 2-RBI single by Holt to push the lead back to six runs and the game virtually out of reach.
“We had some really big clutch hits tonight, which we’ve not had previously in some of the games we’ve played so that was big for us,” Pinkham said. “Aimee’s hit was huge (in the fifth). We needed those runs. That was a really important hit for us.”
LEMON BAY 9, LAKE PLACID 3
Lake Placid 000 030 0 — 3 6 5
Lemon Bay 510 030 X — 9 8 0
WP: Logan Johnson. LP: Melissa Ojeda. Leading hitters: (LP) Kylie Elliot 1-4, 2 RBI; Leah Moore 2-3, 3B, RBI, R; (LB) Aimee Holt 2-4, 3 RBI, R; Destiny Ashcraft 1-4, 2 RBI. Records: Lemon Bay 12-11, Lake Placid 6-16.