By ALAN DELL
LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Amanda Rak couldn't have picked a better time to throw one of her best games of the season.
The Lakewood Ranch sophomore dominated St. Petersburg Dixie Hollins, striking out 13, and allowed only one hit to spark the host Mustangs to a 6-0 victory in a Class 6A-District 12 semifinal Wednesday.
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The triumph keeps the season alive for Lakewood Ranch and enables the Mustangs to go for their
fourth straight district championship. They will get that opportunity Friday night when they play host to Palmetto, which defeated Seminole Osceola 7-3 in its semifinal.
"I came out feeling confident and relaxed and I had a good warm-up," Rak said. "I am very happy
with how it turned out. My curveball is usually my dominate pitch, and it was working good with my change-up. They are my two best pitches and I pretty much depended on those all night."
Lakewood Ranch (16-8-1) got all the runs it needed in the first. Amber Wimmer led off the game with a triple, Jenn Trotter was hit by a pitch and then Shea Fisher smacked a two-run single.
Rak retired the first 11 batters of the game, racking up seven strikeouts. Dixie Hollins (9-10) got a single with two out in the fourth for its only hit. The right-hander struck out the side in the fifth and retired 10 straight batters to end the game.
The Rebels kept it close until Lakewood Ranch broke open the game in the bottom of the sixth when it scored four runs.
"It's a good feeling to know your teammates are behind you scoring runs. It gives me more confidence on the mound and keeps me relaxed," Rak said. "I wasn't worried. Those runs
helped and I felt confident that my pitches were working to dominate their hitters."
The Mustangs went to what head coach Tony Cummins called his "smallball" in the sixth. They got their runs on three hits and only one ball was hit out of the infield.
McKaley Goodale and Katie Hopkins opened the inning with singles. An error led to one run and then Jackie Scoff dropped down a squeeze bunt that scored another. A third run came in on another error off another bunt and Trotter dropped down a sacrifice bunt to score the final run.
"Amanda has been pretty solid. She was in transition early in the year because of some mechanics on her pitches. I am not surprised by her performance," Cummins said. "Her pace is increasing and her changeup is one of the best in the state. It's a good match. I would expect she would start Friday. Korrin Cline is hurt and is out for a little bit."
Wimmer and Schoff, who made her first appearance at the plate this season because of injuries, had
two hits apiece. Fisher was 1-for-2 with a walk and two RBIs and Maddie Biggs had a double and reached on a walk.
"We are smallball team. We have always been a smallball team," Cummins said. "When something isn't working you have to try something different. Jackie had a good night. You can see what she does when she gets on the bases. She is devastating."