BAYSHORE GARDENS -- Knowing his team had the edge in talent, Bayshore softball coach Frank Luther decided to use Thursday's Class 5A-Region 3 softball quarterfinal as a teaching moment.
So during the first inning against Tampa Middleton, the first seven Bruins dropped bunts. Luther wanted to hammer home to his girls the importance of execution, and the proof was on the scoreboard. The small-ball approached triggered a five-run first-inning rally and carried Bayshore to a 15-0 win that was stopped after four innings because of the mercy rule.
"I wanted to do it just to show the girls execution and how we can run bases with our speed and we can take advantage of our speed," said Luther, whose team is now 21-4, "if we execute."
After Kristin Staley and LaShara James reached and pulled off a double steal, a bunt by Miriam Schmoll plated both and landed Schmoll on second. And Bayshore kept on dropping bunts before Susie Blue, the only player who didn't square around during the bottom of the first, ripped an RBI double.
"In the past, we haven't. So (Thursday), we just executed our bunts," said Staley, who was hit by a pitch twice and added another single in the fourth. "It really helped us. ... We knew once we got our bunts down, we could relax a little bit and swing the bats like we know how."
After struggling to move runners during last week's District 10 final against St. Petersburg Lakewood, the Bruins had no trouble bunting Thursday, much to the delight of their coach.
"I was very pleased. We executed very well this time," Luther said. "This is the game where I think they executed like I needed them to and wanted them to so they could understand what happens when they do."
Marina Clark added a pair of double, including one on a bunt, and Schmoll once again starred in the circle, striking out 10, walking one and giving up a hit in four innings. The freshman hasn't been scored on in 16 postseason innings.
The Bruins host Lakewood on Tuesday in a Region 3 semifinal. It will be the fourth meeting between the teams. Bayshore won two of the previous three, including the District 10 final last Friday in St. Petersburg.
"We're prepared for them. I'm sure they're going to be prepared for us," Luther said. "They should know us by now. And we're ready."
Last week's win over the Spartans didn't just earn the Bruins a trophy, but home-field advantage. Bayshore beat Lakewood 13-3 in the one game the teams played this season in Bayshore Gardens.
"I'm excited it's home," Staley said. "Everybody else says it doesn't matter, but I think it matters. You get all your friends, you get all your family out there. And it's a good time."