LAKEWOOD RANCH — Kayla Schappacher doesn’t consider herself a power hitter.
Instead, the Lakewood Ranch switch-hitting first baseman and No. 8 hitter is known for her speed and her ability to advance runners.
“I’m not a power hitter,” Schappacher said. “I just wanted to hit the ball hard. I normally just hit singles and steal around.”
But in the Class 4A-District 10 championship April 23, Schappacher showed she’s capable of hitting the long ball as well.
After squeezing in a run with a bunt batting left-handed in the second inning, Schappacher hit her second home run of the season in the bottom of the fifth and added a sacrifice fly in the sixth, both of which came from the right side, to help propel the top-seeded Lady Mustangs to a 5-1 victory over No. 2 seed Braden River.
“Kayla likes to go left and right, but I think she’s got the power to go right,” Lakewood coach Joe Dowling said. “She’s a great slapper and a great bunter, but I think she’s got the power (too). Nobody (else) does (though) because she’s so little.”
With the win, Lakewood captured its second district title in school history and its first since 2003.
“It’s great because all of us we’re doing it for the seniors,” junior pitcher Brittany Kilduff said. “This is the one thing that we came out and really wanted to do — get one game at a time and we’re loving it.”
The Lady Mustangs’ district title was extra meaningful for both Dowling — whose daughter, Melissa, played on the Lakewood’s first district championship team — and Schappacher — whose older sister played on the team.
“My sister was a district champ in ’03,” Schappacher said. “She was on that team, and now this is the first one since then, so it’s like family. … I feel like I should pass it down to a cousin or something. It’s amazing. I’m just so happy.”
Lakewood took an early 1-0 lead when leadoff hitter Corey Hanewich drew a walk and eventually came around to score on a wild pitch. The Lady Mustangs extended their lead in the second inning when Taylor Newton scored on a sacrifice fly by Schappacher.
Braden River cut Lakewood’s lead in half in the third inning when Jessica Gore hit a home run over the centerfield fence, cutting the Lady Mustangs’ lead to 2-1. But that would be the lone run for the Lady Pirates who struggled at the plate.
“We got down a little bit, and we couldn’t recover,” Braden River coach Doug Powell said. “They hit the ball pretty well, but we’ll make some adjustments if we get to play them again. Mentally, we just have to bring our game.
“There’s no doubt in my mind we have the skills and the players to beat them, but tonight, it just wasn’t there,” he added.Kilduff, who learned about 15 minutes before game time that she would be the starting pitcher, earned the win for Lakewood, allowing one run on three hits while striking out nine and walking two.
“Her pitches were working,” Dowling said. “Her changeup is devastating, and they couldn’t stay off of it. When her changeup’s on, she’s one heck of a pitcher.”
It was the first time Kilduff faced the Lady Pirates since the preseason. Sophomore Huntyre Elling pitched in Lakewood’s two previous victories over Braden River.
“It’s a big game and a pitcher always wants to pitch,” Kilduff said. “No matter who goes out there, you’re always going to want to pitch. You just have to try your hardest and be focused, and whatever happens, happens.
“The pitches that I did miss my team was behind me all the way, which I love because I can’t do it all myself,” she added.
Lakewood opened its regional tournament April 27 at home versus District 9 runner-up Tampa Jefferson in the regional quarterfinals while Braden River traveled to District 9 winner George Steinbrenner.
Results from Tuesday night’s regional games were unavailable as of press time. However, if both the Lady Mustangs and the Lady Pirates were victorious, then the two rivals would meet again in the regional semifinals April 30.
“We’re going to make some adjustments and we’re going to hopefully come back here and play them again,” Powell said. “I would like one more shot at them.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected]