BRADEN RIVER — One is a magical number for the Braden River High softball team.
Over the course of the season, the Lady Pirates’ mindset has been simple.
Score one run in the first, second or third inning, and let senior ace Courtney Mirabella and the rest of the Braden River defense do the rest.
Four of the Lady Pirates’ wins this season have come by a one-run margin. And last Thursday night proved no different.
The Lady Pirates scored in the bottom of the third inning and held on to defeat Sarasota 1-0 in the Class 7A-District 11 championship. With the win, Braden River captured its second-consecutive district title.
“This group, I’ve said it before, if they score one before three, then it’s in the bank,” coach Erin Spivey says. “They did that tonight. They said they wanted it and they came out and showed it.
“It’s awesome because there is such a big target on our back all of the time,” Spivey says. “Everybody wants to beat us. For us to come out and execute feels great.”
Braden River scored its lone run on Jessica Cadorette’s two-out RBI double, which drove in Ashley Allard.
“We definitely wanted to win districts as our first major goal,” Mirabella says. “We know Sarasota is a really good team. They play really well in the playoffs, so we knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”
Sarasota had a base runner reach third in the fourth and sixth innings, but both times Mirabella shut the Lady Sailors down.
Sarasota’s Sarah Beth Wengerd tripled with one out in the top of the sixth, but the rally proved to be short lived, as Mirabella fanned the next five batters to close out the game.
“I really like the pressure,” Mirabella says. “I think I handle it well. I was just really confident tonight in everything. I definitely knew my defense has been working really well lately and I knew they had my back.
“I don’t like when girls get hits off of me,” Mirabella says. “It gets me pumped up. I know I have to get these next outs for sure.”
Mirabella, who leads the state in strikeouts (275) and ERA (.46), hasn’t allowed a run since March 16. Mirabella allowed four hits and walk while striking out 14 in the district championship.
Cadorette had a pair of hits, and Allard and Bethany Keen each had a hit for Braden River.
With the win, Braden River played host to Stuart South Fork in the Region 3 quarterfinals April 24. The winner will face the winner of the other regional quarterfinal between Sarasota and Okeechobee in the regional semifinals April 30.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LAKEWOOD RANCH — The Lakewood Ranch High softball team feared the worst.
During its final practice before the district championship, coach Tony Cummins led his girls to believe they were going to be conditioned for two hours — a punishment of sorts for their unenthusiastic 6-0 Class 6A-District 12 semifinal victory over Dixie Hollins April 17.
Instead, the Lady Mustangs spent the next two hours slurping smoothies and playing kickball and other childhood games.
The idea was to get the players to take a step back from the daily grind, relax and ultimately remember why they started playing softball in the first place.
The practice proved to be exactly what Lakewood needed, as the Lady Mustangs went on to capture their fourth-consecutive district championship with a 10-0 victory over Palmetto April 19.
“For as tight and as stiff as we played in the district semis, tonight was a great night,” Cummins says. “The energy was totally different. They just had a good time.
“They played like little girls,” Cummins says. “That’s what I’ve been telling them. ‘Just play for the little girl that’s inside of you who started playing a long time ago.’”
Lakewood scored a pair of runs in the first inning and added runs in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth inning.
The Lady Mustangs pounded out 14 hits in the game, which was called in the bottom of the sixth inning due to the 10-run mercy rule. Seniors Jenn Trotter, Taylor Newton, McKaleigh Goodale and Amber Wimmer combined for nine of the Lady Mustangs’ hits and six of their runs.
Wimmer went 3-for-4 with a double, a stolen base, an RBI and a run scored. Trotter went 2-for-3 with a double, a stolen base and RBI and two runs scored. Newton went 2-for-4 with two doubles, three RBIs and a run scored. Goodale went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Newton went 2-for-4 with two doubles, three RBIs and a run scored.
The win was particularly rewarding for Newton, Trotter and Goodale, who have won district titles each of the past four years.
“It’s really exciting to be able to come out all four years and win it,” Goodale says. “You do the best you can. It’s the icing on the cake. It’s the way to finish it strong.”
“To keep winning (district titles) every year is a great accomplishment,” Newton says. “So, to win this last one to seal the books feels good.”
With the win, Lakewood will play host to District 11 runner-up Tampa Sickles in the Region 3 quarterfinals April 24. The winner will face the winner of the other regional quarterfinal between Palmetto and Strawberry Crest in the regional semifinals April 30.