BRADENTON - The bus ride home is always happier after a win.
But Manatee High coach Keltie O'Dell hopes the good vibes conjured from Thursday night's victory last long after the ride from Manatee Community College to the Manatee High parking lot is over.
The Canes handed Braden River its first loss of the year Thursday, beating the Pirates 3-1. It was a non-district affair, but what the win lacks in the standings it may make up for in bolstering the Hurricanes' collective psyche.
Playing without senior pitcher Stacy Corak, a nine-game winner last season who has missed more than three weeks with a shoulder injury, Manatee has slipped during the first portion of the season. Thursday's solid win may change that, with the goal now to push the newfound momentum forward when the Hurricanes host Palmetto tonight.
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"Our record, 3-6, doesn't reflect the ballclub that we are," O'Dell said. "We've lost some heartbreakers . . . sometimes, our pitching wasn't there. It's been a big deal with Stacy being gone.
"We play Palmetto (tonight), and hopefully, we can come out and get a win. Hopefully, we can keep it together and play well."
Hurricanes hurler Caroline Curran was the difference Thursday, limiting the Pirates to two singles - one in the first inning and another in the seventh - and retired 15 of the first 18 batters she faced.
The freshman lefty, who has all three Manatee wins this season, eschewed power for precision, striking out just two. Instead, she took advantage of her defense, especially centerfielder Hilary Tosch, who snagged six Braden River flies.
Curran got a stiff challenge from counterpart Krista Wells, who struck out nine. But a rough first inning, where Manatee scored twice on Sarah Miller's triple, Tura Magley's double and two Braden River errors, was enough to negate Wells' effort and drop the Pirates to 6-1.
"We had two bad innings defensively, and that's what killed us," said Braden River coach Kaththea Smith. "But if you're going to make mistakes, you've got to score more than one run.
"I hate to make excuses and stuff like that, but that wasn't us."
Much to Smith's, Braden River bounces right back tonight when the Pirates face Avon Park.
"My girls need to get right back in between the lines (tonight)," Smith said. "They need to fix the mistakes and punish Avon Park (tonight). And I truly believe they will."
Manatee 200 000 1 - 3 7 3
Braden River 000 000 1 - 1 2 5
WP - Caroline Curran. LP - Krista Wells. 2B - Tura Magley (M). 3B - Sarah Miller (M). Team records: Manatee 3-6, Braden River 6-1.