Prep Rally | Bayshore softball's ride to region final a memorable one

jlembo@bradenton.comMay 3, 2013 

TAMPA

Milestones should be difficult to accomplish.

If it were easy to do something memorable, something that breaks new ground or blazes a trail, everybody would do it. And milestones wouldn't be special at all.

So of course Bayshore had to overcome a nutty week to reach a region softball final for the first time in nine years, had to spend three straight days going back and forth to Tampa, had to battle two days of pouring rain that forced the Bruins to start, stop, start, stop and start again one of the biggest games in program history.

The Bruins had to endure the agony of not scoring a run despite loading the bases with none out and had to squeak their way out of a pair of bases-loaded messes themselves.

When it was over, it was all worth it. Bayshore went to Tampa Blake on Tuesday evening and came back Thursday afternoon with a ticket to the tonight's Class 5A-Region 3 championship game.

"It was very weird. We all were saying it," said sophomore shortstop Ashley Perry, whose three innings of scoreless relief in the pitcher's circle helped clinch an 8-7 win over the Yellowjackets. "I play travel ball, and this has never happened to me in all my life."

What Perry and her young teammates did -- Bayshore starts three freshmen in the outfield and graduates just three seniors -- was breathe life into a program that hasn't gone this far since 2004.

In fact, no Bayshore team has gone this far since '04, when those Bruins lost the Class 4A-Region 4 title game to Pembroke Pines Charter.

Now today, there are just two area softball teams standing: Lakewood

Ranch, which has made a habit of crafting long runs through the regional tournament and is looking for a second straight final four trip at 4 p.m. Friday when the Mustangs host New Port Richey River Ridge, and Bayshore, which plays host to Lake Wales at 7 p.m.

The Bruins are a win away from the state final four, a win away from a trip to Vero Beach and three wins away from a state championship.

"Not only me, but no one else in Bradenton dreamed of us being (here)," said Bayshore coach Frank Luther, whose daughter, La'Tece, serves as his assistant. "Bayshore, as a program, everybody thinks we're the rug that everybody can just walk over. Not anymore."

Instead, they're the program that rose from the fourth seed in a six-team district, overcame a disappointing loss to Dunedin in the District 12 final and, this week, brushed off two days of rain and a pesky team from Blake in order to play for a regional championship.

"It means a lot to us," Perry said. "We're going to come out ready to play and just going to try and come out and do our best."

Bayshore's best has the Bruins on the cusp of school history.

It hasn't been easy.

But judging from the loud celebration near Bayshore's dugout Thursday afternoon, it has sure been worth it.

John Lembo, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-2097. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnLembo1878.

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