8A-8 SOFTBALL: PHU holds off East Lake for title
PALM HARBOR -
The threat to Palm Harbor University's eventual Class 8A District 8 championship victory wasn't extremely severe, but rival East Lake made securing the trophy much more difficult than desired.
With PHU one out away from putting a 13-3 mercy-rule win to bed in just 4 1/2 innings, East Lake's suddenly resuscitated offense pumped enough life back into its game to go the distance.
The Hurricanes still won their fifth consecutive league title by a considerable 15-8 margin, but PHU coach Kerry Katchuk mentioned that his team can ill afford such lapses moving forward.
“We got a little sloppy and I get concerned about that. Not about this game but down the road when we get into a tight game.”
The Class 8A region quarterfinals begin next Thursday, where PHU will play host to the District 8A-7 runner-up. Durant and Wharton complete their title game Friday afternoon.
After trouncing East Lake by scores of 14-4 and 10-4 in previous meetings this season, PHU wasted little time getting back to work Thursday afternoon.
The 'Canes' offense exploded for six runs on five hits and three walks in the home-half of the first to go up 6-1. East Lake had struck first with a Nicole Szelest RBI single to score Audrey Gangloff.
That big PHU inning was the first of two six-run frames. The 'Canes duplicated that crooked number in the fourth by sending 11 batters to the plate.
In total, PHU cranked out 17 hits and drew seven walks to get its 15 runs.
Nine-hole hitter Katie Flanagan produced a three-hit day while six other 'Canes turned in two-hit efforts. Shortstop Jessica Adams reached base safely in all five of her plate appearances, going 2-for-2 with three walks, two RBIs and two runs scored.
Third baseman Moriah Connolly (2-for-3, two runs, two walks) also increased her streak of perfection on the base paths by stealing three. The senior is now 48-for-48 on steal attempts this season.
“I took it one pitch at a time and all the hard work and encouraging words from my teammates is paying off,” Flanagan said of her big day, adding that the team didn't feel overly threatened by East Lake's comeback effort.
“I have trust and complete faith in every single one of these girls on the team. We play as a team, we win as a team and we always pick each other up.”
Although playing from behind almost all day long, East Lake managed to make the most of its seven hits and three free passes. The biggest of those came in the fourth when Emma Hvozdovich snuck a two-run home run inside the left-field foul pole.
The loss means East Lake will have to travel to open the playoffs by traveling to Durant or Wharton. Durant's road to the state title last year began when they scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to comeback and beat the Eagles, 9-7.
EL - 010 000 x --- 8-7-5PHU - 000 038 x --- 15-17-3
WP – Rachel TaylorLP – Gabby Orito
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