Bayshore Bruins headed to prep softball region for first time since 2005

jlembo@bradenton.comApril 20, 2013 

DUNEDIN -- Bayshore's softball team likes to hit the hard stuff.

The Bruins feasted on it during Wednesday's upset of St. Petersburg Lakewood in a Class 5A-District 12 semifinal. And they continued to do so in the first two innings of Friday's district championship game against Dunedin.

But then the Falcons made an adjustment.

The Bruins did not.

And when it was over, Dunedin was toasting its second straight district title thanks to a 7-4 win over Bayshore at Highland Park.

After teeing off on fastballs, the Bruins (15-7) struggled as soon as Dunedin pitcher Aubrey Ehlers went to her change-up. After allowing three runs on four hits through the first two innings, Ehlers struck out six over the final five en route to pitching the second-seeded Falcons to the title.

"We're just not a good change-up-hitting team, I guess," said Bruins coach Frank Luther said. "And (Falcons coach Roy Silver) found that out, and had his pitcher throw change-ups. And we couldn't adjust to it. But we will. We'll go back to practice and we'll work on it."

Bayshore (15-7) had no trouble hitting Ehlers early, taking a 2-0 lead in the first on Marina Clark's two-run double. Dunedin tied it in its half of the inning before the Bruins jumped ahead again, 3-2, when Kassidy Clifford doubled and scored on a sacrifice bunt by Sarah Gardner and a bunt single from pinch hitter Braden Causey.

Ehlers went to the soft stuff in the third, however, retiring seven straight at one point while Dunedin's hitters built a 6-3 lead through three.

"They've got good, aggressive young hitters. Quick bats," Silver said of Bayshore. "We wanted to establish the strike zone early and then keep them off balance. You have to throw your change-up for a strike to do that and early, (Ehlers) didn't, and then in the middle of the game, she got into a groove.

"But those hitters, they're electric. If you just throw the ball down the middle, they're going to make you pay."

Bayshore mounted one last rally in the fifth, when Lashara James doubled with two outs and scored when JoJo Muldoon did the same. A walk and a double steal put runners on second and third for Clark, the Bruins' freshman cleanup hitter. Clark showed bunt throughout the entire at bat and worked the count to 2-2 before popping out.

Ehler retired six of the last seven batters she faced.

"We came into this game thinking this girl threw hard, and that's what we practiced all week," Clark said. "We didn't practice the bunt, pull back and adjust to a change-up. And that was really our issue. It was my big issue - she found my weakness and I give her that."

James scored two runs and had two hits for the Bruins.

The tournament's fourth seed, Bayshore played well enough to reach the region tournament for the first time since 2005. The Bruins head to Ruskin Lennard, the District 11 champion, 7 p.m. Wednesday in a Region 3 quarterfinal.

"I'm so proud of them," Luther said, which won 11 straight heading into Friday. "They've got a lot of resolve. … We started off slow, and throughout the season, we started hitting our niche.

"This teaches us how it feels to lose, and we don't want that taste anymore. Wednesday, we'll be ready."

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