Braden River

Prep softball | Ali Yawn near perfect in leading Braden River to region softball final

EAST MANATEE -- After struggling with her control in recent games, Ali Yawn was curious about how some new adjustments would affect her pitching,

That curiosity transformed into a celebration when she was near perfect in leading host Braden River to a 13-0 victory over Seminole Osceola Tuesday night in a Class 7A Region 3 softball semifinal.

The game was stopped after 4½ innings because of the 10-run mercy rule, but Braden River head coach Melissa Dowling had seen enough to know Yawn might be turning the corner at the perfect time.

"We asked her to step in and get the job done, and that's exactly what she did," Dowling said. "We've talked about shortening up her step on different pitches. She was getting out too wide so she was slipping, which was causing the ball go straight into the ground. She shortened up that step a little bit, brought the ball right up and her control was on point tonight."

Yawn allowed only one hit, walked two and struck out three in five innings

against Osceola (20-8). She got good help from her defense that pulled off a double play and catcher Kyle Toler, who picked off a runner at second who had reached on an error.

"My curveball was working and my screwball was working, and I was able to hit my spots and had an awesome defense behind me. I learned to step shorter on my curveball and snap tighter and stay closer to my body," Yawn said.

Yawn also helped with her bat giving Braden River (22-2) a lineup that is power packed at the bottom to set the table for leadoff hitter Myah Moy.

Yawn and shortstop Linda Ross, the eighth and ninth batters in the lineup, reached base a combined six times in six plate appearances and scored three runs apiece.

Ross went 3 for 3 with three RBIs, and Yawn had a double and a single. Moy reached base on all four of her plate appearances and drove in four runs with a two-run triple and two-run double.

Zaire Yancy, the Pirates junior left fielder also had a big night with two doubles and two runs scored.

"We stack our lineup like that on purpose. I've got those guys (Ross and Yawn) as table-setters for the top of our lineup," Dowling said. "It's not your typical bottom of the lineup weak hitters. We have them there for a purpose, and they showed that tonight. You couldn't ask for a better performance."

In many ways, Dowling has re-invented how to put a batting lineup together. Ross is carrying a .471 batting average, Yawn is hitting .441, and Moy is batting a hefty .607.

A lot of hitters with Ross' skill would not be happy about being the last batter in the lineup, but she has embraced the role as the season has gone along.

"I don't mind it as long as I am in the lineup. It isn't my first choice. I would rather bat up in the lineup but as long as I am in it I am fine," Ross said. "Sometimes pitchers doubt the bottom of the order and are not expecting what we can do. Our whole lineup is good all the way through."

The Pirates will be home Friday in the region final to face Fort Myers, which defeated Punta Gorda Charlotte 11-10 in their semifinal.

"The last time we went to regionals was my first year here (as an assistant) with Courtney Mirabella," Dowling said. "It feels good to get back. These kids have been working for states all year, that's been our number one goal and they have the opportunity to play for states on Friday so we are excited."

Alan Dell, Herald sports columnist/writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.