By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
ARCADIA — DeSoto County continues to have Lemon Bay’s softball number.
For the third time this season, and sixth in row, DeSoto County defeated Lemon Bay, this time with a 5-3 win in the District 5A-12 championship game. It’s also the second straight season the Bulldogs have bested the Manta Rays for the district title.
The Bulldogs broke a 3-3 tie with a two-run fifth inning and delivered clutch hits throughout the night to earn a home date with Booker in Wednesday’s region quarterfinals. The loss will put Lemon Bay on the road against District 5A-11 champion Bayshore, which defeated the Manta Rays 11-0 in last season’s region quarterfinals.
“We’re definitely disappointed. It was a well-played game. It was a difference of them having a couple of clutch hits and us not,” Lemon Bay coach Kim Pinkham said. “We had six hits from four different people and we needed more than that and we didn’t have it. But it was still a good game. The nice thing is we still get to play next week.”
Hannah England ultimately delivered the game-winning run on a ground out that scored Chelsea Whitmore in the fifth after Whitemore led off with a single. Malyssa Jeter’s RBI single then followed to bring DeKoda Johnson home after she had reached on a bunt single. It was the insurance England needed to shut the door on the pitcher’s mound.
Whitemore and Jeter each went 2-for-3 against Lemon Bay starter Logan Johnson, who pitched a complete game and gave up all five runs earned on seven hits and four walks while striking out one.
“We’ve out-hit them before and lost. I mean, we played good defense tonight but it always come down to a few clutch hits against them,” Pinkham said. “All the way around that was a good game to watch. That was a well-played game. There was a lot of good softball in that game. Yes, we’re disappointed to lose, but we’re thankful we get to keep playing.”
Kasi Shaffer had three of Lemon Bay’s six hits and accounted for all three of its runs, which included a two-run home run to centerfield to tie the game 3-3 in the top of the fifth. She also hit a double and scored on an error in the second to put Lemon Bay up 1-0 early on.
The senior was afraid she wouldn’t even be able to play as she showed up in the wrong jersey after rushing to the game from Tampa, where she competed in the discuss throw for the Lemon Bay track & field team in regionals. But the umpires let her play, or otherwise, the game may not have been as close, considering the rest of the lineup went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
“I was such an idiot. Who does that?” Shaffer said of her jersey mishap. “But we’re not hitting the ball when we need to. We need to hit the ball with clutch hits. We had six hits but I had three of them. That doesn’t work. Everyone needs to hit, not just a few people.”
England kept Lemon Bay’s lineup off balanced just enough to earn the win, striking out five and retiring the final seven batters she faced in a complete game effort. She also had one of the biggest hits of the night, a three-run home run to left field that put the Bulldogs ahead 3-1 in the third.
DESOTO COUNTY 5, LEMON BAY 3
Lemon Bay 010 020 0 — 3 6 0
DeSoto County 003 020 x — 5 7 2
WP: Hannah England. LP: Logan Johnson. Leading hitters: (LB) Kasi Shaffer 3-3, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R; (DC) Hannah England 1-3, HR, 4 RBI, R; Malyssa Jeter 2-3, RBI; DeKoda Johnson 2-3, BB, 2 R. Records: DeSoto County 15-12, Lemon Bay 12-12.