By Bruce Robins, Sun Correspondent
NORTH PORT – Venice High School rallied for six runs in the top of the seventh inning to defeat North Port 13-8 in a District 7A-11 softball semifinal Tuesday night.
In a back-and-forth game featuring 23 hits and 12 errors, the Bobcats found themselves clinging to an 8-7 lead heading into the final inning.
“We’ve got seven seniors on this team and we’ve played a hard schedule,” Venice coach Steve Constantino said. “Our record doesn’t look great on paper but we’ve played a lot of one- and two-run games. I told them those games would pay off in the postseason. If you blow teams out you never learn how to win. In the seventh inning, we had three seniors in a row coming to the plate, and I said, ‘You guys have to find a way to get it done.’ ”
Lindsey Sherwood led off with a base hit and Erika Martineau drew a walk off North Port pitcher Ashley Nelson. Elsie Rivera bunted the ball in front of the plate, and the throw to first got past Bobcat second baseman Skylar Poitras, allowing Venice to score the tying and go-ahead runs. Tess and Antonia Rosa followed with singles to bring home another run, and Caitlin Cristello delivered a two-run single to give the Indians a 12-8 lead. It was the first time either team led by more than two runs during the contest.
Haley Hendrick’s solo home run in the first inning gave Venice a quick 1-0 advantage, but the Bobcats answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning off Venice starter Haley Adrian. Brianna Mitchell and Taylor Koohns had RBI singles and Poitras drove in the other run with a squeeze bunt.
But sloppy defense let North Port down in the third inning, as the Indians rallied for four runs thanks to three Bobcat errors, including a misplayed sacrifice bunt by Haley Kimble that wound up clearing the bases.
North Port tied it up in the bottom of the frame after loading the bases with nobody out on a Venice error and a ground out. Venice briefly took a 6-5 lead in the top of the fourth before the Bobcats scored twice in the bottom of the inning thanks to two Venice miscues, two walks and an RBI single by Kamryn Nazario. Syd Seibert relieved Adrian in the fourth and gave up one more run in the fifth before shutting the door on the Bobcats the rest of the way.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow but there has to be a loser,” North Port coach Dennis Bell said. “Maybe I left Ashley in too long but hindsight is 20-20. But she’s been out horse all year long and we were going to win or lose with her.”
North Port ended its season with a record of 15-11. Venice will face top seed Fort Myers, a 1-0 winner over Charlotte Tuesday, for the district championship on Thursday.
“It wasn’t a clean game, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do and move on,” Constantino said. “We’re going to head to Fort Myers on Thursday and hope to get us another one.”
VENICE 13, NORTH PORT 8
Venice 104 101 6 – 13 14 5
North Port 302 210 0 – 8 9 7
WP: Syd Seiber. LP: Ashley Nelson. Leading hitters: (V) Corryne Martin 3-4, 2 R, 2 RBI; Caitlin Cristello 2-4, R, 2 RBI; Tess Rosa 2-4, 2 R; (NP) Kylie Murray 3-5, R, RBI; Brianna Mitchell 1-4, 2B, R, 2 RBI; Kamryn Nazario 2-4, RBI. Records: Venice 13-13, North Port 15-11.