EAST MANATEE -- The Braden River athletic department might be inundated with emails today.
It will be softball fans pleading not to play anymore 6 o'clock games.
The Pirates did Wednesday night to accommodate Stuart Martin County South Fork in the Class 7A-Region 3 quarterfinal, and it created a lot of anxiety.
Braden River coasted to a 9-0 victory with ace Courtney Mirabella striking out 13 and allowing only one hit in extending her scoreless streak to 75 innings.
But Mirabella said she felt sleepy-headed because of the early start and lobbied head coach Erin Spivey to let her run the bases instead of sending in a pinch-runner as has been done all season.
Mirabella got on base twice and both times slid home to score a run, causing fans nervous moments knowing their franchise player was risking an inju
ry that could end their state tournament hopes.
"At the beginning of the game Courtney didn't feel like she was quite awake and asked me to let her run," Spivey said. "She is a very smart base runner, but it made me nervous. That's it. She won't be running the next time. It kills me to pinch-run for her, but she is so vital on the mound I have to do it."
The right-hander improved to 16-3 and lowered her ERA to 0.44. She threw 95 pitches, with 68 going for strikes. For the season, Mirabella has a state-leading 288 strikeouts in 144 1/3 innings. She faced the minimum of 21 batters against South Fork (13-8) with her teammates pulling off two double plays. South Fork's only hit was a single in the fourth, and another runner reached on an error.
"I wasn't really awake and asked coach to let me wake up running. It was exciting; I haven't slid home since I was 10," Mirabella said. "I was proud of my hitting tonight. Our defense was on, which was good because I felt like I had an off night. It was quiet and awkward playing this early. I like playing at night."
Braden River (21-5) got a big night from Hannah Loyer, who broke out of her slump by reaching base in all four of her at-bats with three hits and a walk. She drove in two runs to highlight the Pirates' five-run fourth inning.
The center fielder moved down to sixth in the batting order, and it helped.
"It takes a lot of pressure off hitting lower and you get better pitches," Loyer said. "I was hitting fourth. I understood why they moved me down. I wasn't hitting. I am more comfortable hitting sixth, and I've been focusing more."
The Pirates banged out eight hits. Mirabella had two and scored two runs, and freshman Bethany Keen reached base four times on three walks and a single. Loyer leads Braden River with 18 RBIs and is hitting .313, but had gone hitless in her three previous games.
The Pirates will be home Tuesday in their region semifinal to face Sarasota, which defeated Okeechobee 5-1 in another quarterfinal.