BOARDS Second-year Bartow Red Oxley and Melbourne sophomore Jasmine Francis were closed in the bout, and it was early to be seen that the team that was the first to catch the break and take advantage would win.
Melbourne was that team.
The Bulldogs caught a break at the top of the ninth inning they took advantage of and defeated the Yellow Jackets 2-0 on Saturday in the final of Class 6A, Region 3 in Bartow.
With the victory Melbourne (23-2) went to the state tournament 6A, which starts on Friday. This is the first trip of the Bulldogs to the state tournament since 2014.
“These girls have been playing so freely all year,” Melbourne coach Dan Edel said. “We’ve had so many upheavals at Melbourne High School and they’ve come out through it. I’m so proud.”
In 2014, Melbourne was eliminated in the semifinals. That year Edel was assistant staff.
“This time I will try to bring it home for the previous coaching staff and for these girls.”
For Bartow (25-4) it was the second year in a row that he could not provide Oxley with enough support in the playoffs. Oxley only conceded two hits and knocked out 19, but passed two, one intentionally, and hit two rebounds.
“It was a tough game,” Bart coach Glenn Rutenbar said. “It was two equal teams. If you get your chances and we had our chances, you have to score. So I thought the game would be. We didn’t throw the ball. Our pitcher was great. Their pitcher was fantastic. Someone has to win “.
Bart had just a couple of scoring chances against Francisco, who was just as dominant as Oxley. She made three strikes, took two strikes and knocked out 14.
“She mixed speeds incredibly well, and she didn’t rattle,” Edel said. “Even if she hits the plate, she can come back and dominate. She can split between punches and innings. She’s a rare breed. She’ll be a force.”
Melbourne scored both games without the ball passing the pitcher in the inning, the one that started with the Bulldogs catching a break.
“That’s how it’s going to be against these pitchers,” Rutenbar said. “There won’t be many singles and doubles.”
Hailey Turner took the lead from the half and tried to score. She lifted him into the air in muddy territory, and catcher Mackenzie Gibson, the first man from the grassroots Morgan Grab and Oxley followed him.
Gibson caught the ball but collided with Hornbeam, and both players went to the ground with the ball that came out of Gibson’s glove. Gibson was shocked during the game and stayed on the ground for a couple of minutes but stayed in the game.
On the next serve Oxley hit Turner with a step.
Nadia Enlish donated Turner to second place, and Eli Turner went. The fourth ball was a wild field, and the runners were able to advance to the second and third.
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After a deliberate walk to load the base, Alicia Thompson threw the ball back to Oxley, who failed to expose it cleanly, allowing Turner to score.
Oxley took the next hit, but Turner scored a goal on the wild, making it 2-0 before Oxley was able to strike out the last hit in the half.
“I was waiting (for that break),” Edel said. “I knew that if we could bring the ball into play, and that at the right time we would need runners at base who would give us speed to emphasize defense.”
Shay Narcissus brought out the bottom of the ninth with a single to give Bartow a brief hope. But after Oxley flew to the left, Francis forced Grab to introduce a double play that ended the game.
In the first eight innings Bart twice took third place, but could not score.
In the fourth inning Narcissus led with one, and Oxley sacrificed her to the second. But after Narcissus stole the third, Francis knocked out the next two hitters.
In the eighth, Kindal Sowell took the lead with the singles, and then the pinch runner was sacrificed second and then third.
However, Francis ended the threat with an outburst.
“You have to be able to take advantage of those chances,” Rutenbar said.