Lakewood Ranch, Bayshore, Saint Stephen's ready for region softball competition

Mustangs, Falcons also hit the field as region play begins

jlembo@bradenton.comApril 29, 2014 

Bayshore High's Miriam Schmoll pitches during a Class 5A-District 10 softball semifinal at Bayshore Wednesday night. TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald

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BRADENTON -- It's been an interesting two years for Bayshore's softball team.

Last year's region semifinal at Tampa Blake took three days to complete because of rain. This year's Class 5A-District 10 final in St. Petersburg was a two-day event for the same reason.

And though Bayshore needed just four innings to dispatch Tampa Middleton last Thursday in a Region 3 quarterfinal, the game took more than two hours to complete because Middleton showed up late, and the lights above the Bruins' softball field shut off for about 10 minutes.

Tuesday, however, Bayshore will get some consistency in the form of St. Petersburg Lakewood, the Bruins' opponent in a Class 5A-Region 3 quarterfinal scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in Bayshore Gardens.

It's the fourth meeting of the season between the District 10 foes, who last met during last week's district final

-- Bayshore won 3-0 -- and split their two regular-season games.

The Bruins needed six innings to secure a 13-3 win over the Spartans on Feb. 18 in Manatee County before Lakewood, on the strength of a seven-run seventh inning, scored a 10-9 win exactly a month later in St. Petersburg.

"My girls are pumped knowing that it's here," said Bayshore coach Frank Luther said, "and the best team is going to win."

The Spartans helped set up the rematch by beating Tampa Robinson 13-3 in a regional quarterfinal. Lakewood is led by pitcher Mariah Watts, who signed with Wisconsion in November.

Bayshore, ranked sixth in Class 5A in the lastest Miracle Sports Softball Poll, has its own ace in the circle -- freshman Miriam Schmoll, who is unscored upon in 16 postseason innings. Schmoll has struck out 178 in 112 2/3 innings and is also hitting .440.

On Tuesday, she and the rest of the Bruins match up again against the Spartans, and the winner plays for the Region 3 championship Friday against either Cape Coral or Wauchula Hardee.

If the Bruins win and Hardee wins, Bayshore is host. But if they win and Cape Coral wins, the Bruins head south.

"It's mutual for both of us, because we've both seen each other so many times," said catcher Kristin Staley, the only senior in Bayshore's starting lineup, of playing Lakewood again. "We know going into the game what (Watts) throws, what she doesn't throw, what she's going to throw on this count, who's the big bats, who's the soft bunters. ... But it's a disadvantage because they know the same for us."

Out in Tarpon Springs, Lakewood Ranch is attempting to reach the final four for the third consecutive season when the Mustangs meet East Lake in a Class 7A-Region 3 semifinal.

The Mustangs (21-7) rode the hot hand of pitcher Amanda Rak past Clearwater Countryside last week. Rak struck out 12 and threw no-hit ball over the final four innings in a 2-0 win.

Tarpon Springs East Lake (16-7) defeated Braden River 8-5 last week.

Tuesday's winner meets either Fort Myers or Melbourne on Friday for the regional title. The Mustangs will be home with a win Tuesday.

Saint Stephen's is staying home Tuesday when the Falcons face Moore Haven in a Class 3A-Region 3 semifinal at 4 p.m. at Turner Fields at Moore Athletic Complex.

The Falcons (10-11) last reached the second round of region play in 2006, when they were competing in Class 2A. This year's team advanced with last Thursday's 9-5 win over Naples St. John Neumann. Saint Stephen's played Moore Haven in a Class 2A-Region 3 quarterfinal in '07, which was won by Terriers.

Moore Haven is an honorable mention in Class 3A in the latest Miracle Sports Softball Poll.

The winner meets either St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut or St. Petersburg Catholic on Friday for the region title. With a win, the Falcons head to Pinellas County if St. Petersburg Catholic wins but stay home if it's Admiral Farragut, a district runner-up.

Friday's winners head to Vero Beach for next week's state softball final four that will be played at Historic Dodgertown.

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