LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The Lakewood Ranch softball team used a little of the old and a little of the new to come up with a familiar result in earning a 2-0 victory over Clearwater Countryside on Thursday night in a Class 7A-Region 3 quarterfinal.
Veteran right-hander Amanda Rak struck out 12 and did not allow a hit in the final four innings while pitching out of a couple of jams.
Freshman Kaylee Misiti provided the offensive spark, banging out three hits and driving in the go-ahead run with a two-out single in the sixth to break a scoreless tie.
The Mustangs (21-7), who have made back-to-back trips to the state final four, will be on the road Tuesday at Tarpon Springs East Lake in a region semifinal.
Her teammates anointed
Misiti with the nickname "Clutch," which seemed appropriate.
"I like it. It feels really amazing," Misiti said. "I was just making adjustments at the plate. I don't get nervous in these situations. It's been fun. I like playing with the older girls and representing the school."
Rak gave up a few hits early and then settled down. After giving up a one-out single in the third, she allowed only two base runners, both on walks.
After an infield error and a walk, Countryside (20-8) had runners on second and third in the sixth when Rak ended the frame with a strikeout. She had three strikeouts in the third and two in each of the last two innings.
"I was feeling relaxed the whole game. Towards the end it was getting really intense, but I love close games like this. They get me pumped up," Rak said. "Kaylee, I trust no matter what. She is a hot hitter, and we all have faith in her. These games are awesome because they are so intense and prepare us (to move ahead). In these games you have to stay positive and not get down on yourself if things go bad."
Lakewood Ranch hit the ball hard in the first five innings, but the ball seemed to be right at a fielder. Too many of the drives stayed in the air.
The Mustangs added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Kahlie Bickerstaff doubled to drive in Misiti with two outs.
"Amanda had a great game tonight. She has nerves of steel and does a good job of pitching out of jams," Lakewood Ranch head coach Tony Cummins said. "Kaylee Misiti's name is now 'Clutch.' She started off really sharp, had a little bit of a midseason freshman slump and has been rocking the ball ever since."
Second baseman Maddie Biggs and catcher Taili Sharp had singles for the Mustangs. Countryside had four hits and only one extra-base hit, a double in the second with two outs.
EAST LAKE 8, BRADEN RIVER 5 -- Aliyah Andrews has been described as a game changer because of her speed around the bases.
The East Lake center fielder, who has already committed to LSU as a sophomore, went 2-for-5 with two steals and two runs in a Class 7A region quarterfinal against Braden River.
But it was her right arm that produced the pivotal play in an 8-5 victory.
Clinging to an 8-3 lead in the seventh inning, the Eagles watched as the Pirates scored once and were threatening to add more with bases loaded and one out.
Braden River's Sarah Crawford hit a ball that dropped in front of Andrews for a single that brought in a run. Another runner was rounding home when Andrews threw a rocket to the catcher for a tag at the plate. The Eagles sealed the game after that by inducing a flyout from Jess McKinnon to end the game.
Through the first two innings it appeared as if the Eagles (16-7) wouldn't need a game-saving throw to secure a win. East Lake capitalized on walks and defensive miscues to score three runs in the first and five in the second.
But the Eagles also left 10 runners stranded, which almost proved to be costly late in the game.
After some early innings jitters, Braden River settled down. The bats came alive in the final three innings as the Pirates scored three runs in fifth and added two in the seventh.
In the seventh, East Lake starter Diana Rayder was wearing down. The plan was for her to pitch to McKinnon for the final out. If that didn't happen, Madde Bertisch would come in for relief.
Rayder bore down to get a fly out from McKinnon, who was 2-for-3 before that.
-- The Tampa Bay Times contributed to this report