Commodores’ Run Ends In State Softball Semifinal
By Jeff Navin // May 10, 2012
CLERMONT, FLORIDA – Eau Gallie High School’s bid to repeat as a state softball champion came to an abrupt end at the National Training Center Softball Complex on Wednesday night.
The Commodores had a third inning they likely will want to forget, but probably never will.
Niceville scored each of its eight runs in the bottom of the third inning to erase a 1-0 deficit and post an 8-4 victory against Eau Gallie.
The Eagles advanced to the Class 6A Championship Game at 7:05 p.m. today against Pembroke Pines Charter. Pembroke Pines Charter ousted Lakewood Ranch of Bradenton 4-0 in Wednesday’s other semifinal game.
“I don’t know what happened,” Eau Gallie pitcher Megan LaFon said. “Niceville hit the ball really well. It was just one inning.”
Stephanie Hartness lined an opposite-field single to left field, Audrey Diekmann was hit by a pitch for the second time in her first two plate appearances and Jessie Mullen walked to load the bases. Jessica Ujvari ripped a 1-2 pitch to left field for a single to drive in Hartness as Diekmann held at third base. One pitch earlier, Ujvari took a close 0-2 pitch that brought a chorus of boos from fans in the stands.
Kaylan Davis followed with a grand slam just to the left of dead center field to give the Eagles a 5-1 advantage.
“It was right down the haymaker,” Davis said. “I didn’t think it would go out, but I knew that I got a hold of it. It rose and rose and went over. The Eau Gallie pitcher (LaFon) was tough. She got me out my first at-bat (grounder back to the mound), and I was thinking of that at-bat when I went up to the plate.”
The nightmare inning continued for the Commodores as Alex Brunson reached on a error as Eau Gallie’s Alex Powers bobbled a ball at shortstop. Lauren Donaldson took first on a fielder’s choice grounder to second as Eau Gallie second baseman Autumn Crowther outran Brunson to second base. Devan Hines walked and Courtney Adams’ sacrifice bunt advanced the baserunners to second and third.
“She (LaFon) lost her cool a little bit,” Eau Gallie coach Russ Reese said. “We had some location problems. That grand slam killed us. It was the nail in the coffin. That was the first grand slam ever against us that I can remember.”
Hartness singled to center field to send Donaldson home as pinch runner Lindsey Donaldson held at third base and Hartness moved to second on the throw. Diekmann followed with a single to left field to drive in two more runs as the Eagles built an 8-1 lead.
Mullen beat out an infield hit, but Ujvari grounded out to second base to end the inning.
“We were more disciplined at the plate and we didn’t chase the ball,” Niceville coach Danny Hensley said. “We made her (LaFon) throw strikes. We knew not to chase pitches to the outside and stayed back.”
Davis’ grand slam was the turning point, but Hensley was quick to point out the importance of the second half of the bottom of the third inning.
“The extra three runs were critical,” said Hensley, whose squad improved to 29-2. “Diekmann had the big hit with two outs. Jamie (starting pitcher Jamie Ujvari) was OK, but she wasn’t spinning the ball great like she usually does. The extra runs gave us some soft of comfort.”
Eau Gallie battled back with three runs in the top of the fifth inning to slice the deficit to 8-4, which proved to be the final margin.
Crowther singled to right field and, after Rachel Engel took a called third strike, moved to second on a wild pitch. Ujvari struck out MacKenzie Conley. Brittany Wylie’s short fly to left field fell in between Mullen, the shortstop, and Lauren Donaldson, the left fielder, as Crowther held at second base. Alexis Koller walked to load the bases.
The Commodores then scored a run on a bizarre play as Brunson fielded a soft liner by Michelle Paul, but the second baseman couldn’t make up her mind whether to throw the ball to Diekmann, the first baseman, or run to first base herself for the unassisted putout. By the time she decided to run, it was too late as Paul reached safely and Crowther scampered home.
Katie Darrah’s sharp single to center field drove in both Wylie and Koller to chop the margin to 8-4. Sid Masso popped out to the pitcher on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.
“We didn’t fall apart after that home run,” said Engel, the Commodores catcher. “The game was not over. We didn’t go down without a fight.”
Eau Gallie, left 11 runners on base total and had threatened in the sixth inning as Crowther singled with one out. Engel reached on a fielder’s choice grounder and Wylie walked. Conley was retired on a sharply lined grounder to second base to end the inning.
“All those runners left on base – that’s what hurt us,” Reese said. “We could have been run ruled. Up and down their lineup, they had people touching the ball.”
LaFon gave up nine hits, with six coming in the third inning. Three of Niceville’s eight runs were unearned. LaFon struck out one, walked three and hit two batters.
Ujvari allowed five hits, struck out seven and walked seven.
The Commodores didn’t go out easily in the top of the seventh as Koller reached on an infield error and was forced out at second base on Paul’s grounder to second after she fouled off several pitches to prolong the at-bat. Darrah lined out to right field, and Hartness, the center fielder, made a diving catch on Masso’s line drive to end the game.
“That catch by Stephanie was huge,” Hensley said. “That was their No. 9 hitter, and that would have brought them back to the top of the lineup. We got (Alex Powers) out her last couple of at-bats. She was too good a hitter to to get out three times in a row.”
Powers doubled to lead off the top of the third inning for the Commodores. Crowther reached on a sacrifice bunt as the ball was misplayed by Davis at third base. A wild pitch then sent Powers home to give Eau Gallie a 1-0 lead.
Engel walked, a sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third, but Ujvari struck out Conley. Koller walked to load the bases. Paul grounded out to second to end the inning.
The Commodores, who ended the season with a 28-3 record, also left the bases loaded in the first inning as Powers, Engel and Wylie each walked.