BRADENTON -- Frank Luther has a special bond with Arcadia DeSoto.
He was born in DeSoto County and played multiple sports during his high school days as a Bulldog.
Heck, even Luther's mom still lives in the county and he drove there to pick her up prior to Tuesday's Class 5A-Region 3 softball semifinal.
But Luther is also Bayshore's softball head coach.
"I'm a Bulldog at heart, but right now I'm a Bayshore Bruin and I hate to lose," Luther said.
On Tuesday, his Bruins (16-3) avoided the latter for their head coach in a 4-1 victory over the Bulldogs.
The win sends Bayshore closer to its preseason goal of a second Final Four trip in three years.
"(Last time) we lost in the semifinal, so we've got to get back there and finish what we started," Luther said. "That is our plan and has been our plan."
The Bruins travel to Wauchula Hardee, who defeated Lakeland McKeel 11-3 on Tuesday, in Friday's 5A-3 region championship.
Getting there was a tough task against DeSoto, which struck first for a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning.
University of South Florida-bound senior LaShara James quickly erased the deficit with a solo home run to lead off the home half of the third inning, before delivering an RBI single in the fourth inning for a 2-1 lead.
Then two key game-changing moments went Bayshore's way.
Ace Miriam Schmoll, who tore her left anterior cruciate ligament during last season that derailed the Bruins long-term playoff hopes, found a jam in the fifth inning.
Facing power hitter Lauren Rotering with two runners on and no outs, Schmoll induced a grounder back up the middle.
Schmoll corralled it and flipped to third baseman Maddy Ramirez, who tagged the bag and fired a laser to first baseman Liz Alvarez to complete the double play.
"That was a big out," Luther said.
Schmoll, a junior committed to join long-time best friend James at USF, said they've worked on that double-play move in practice. She added it was tough watching last season from the sideline and was determined to get the club deep into the state tournament this season
"I felt like I was clawing my eyeballs out," Schmoll said. "It was terrible, but it definitely allowed me to take a step back and look at different aspects of the game. It's not all physical."
That other aspect as a pitcher is the mental part, where Schmoll and James worked on off-speed pitches at a higher rate in the beginning to key on the home plate umpire's strike zone.
Schmoll ratcheted up the heat later in the game, though DeSoto's potent bats still found a way to reach base in the seventh inning.
But by that point, Bayshore capitalized on a late Bulldogs gaffe. That second game-changing moment occurred when Alvarez, the Bruins No. 9 hitter, walked with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
James, who was 2 for 3 with two RBIs, was pitched around and walked. Schmoll followed with her second hit of the game, and JoJo Muldoon smacked a two-run single for a crushing blow.
"We had a No. 9 batter and we walked her," DeSoto head coach Mike Jeter said. "That forced our hand. ... It was huge. In the seventh inning with us, had it been a 2-1 ballgame with two runners on I could have bunted and put two in scoring position."
In the seventh inning, Courtney Ueltschi caught a line drive at second and tagged the bag for a double play to thwart DeSoto's final rally.
Ramirez added a double in a two-hit game, while Malyssa Jeter went 3-for-4 to lead the DeSoto.
Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill and like his Facebook page at Jason Dill Bradenton Herald.