An eventual state champion halted Palm Harbor University's season during regional play last year and Hurricanes coach Kerry Katchuk wouldn't be surprised if history repeats itself in 2013.
Orlando Timber Creek got off the bus swinging Friday afternoon in Palm Harbor and didn't stop until it cranked out 12 runs on 19 hits in a convincing 12-3 win.
“We ran into a pretty good hitting team today,” the first-year coach said. “We thought we had a pretty good plan against them but it just didn't work for us.”
The Wolves entered the Class 8A region final having outscored their first two playoff opponents 22-2 and hit a pair of home runs in both contests. Friday brought a lot of the same, as Timber Creek blasted two more homers in the first two innings to take an early 6-0 lead.
“The first two innings we kind of got punched in the mouth and they're too good for us to do that,” Katchuk said.
But for as bleak as things looked after enduring Timber Creek's initial display of power, PHU never gave in and never backed down.
With one out in the third, leadoff hitter Moriah Connolly sparked a rally by beating out her second infield single of the day. As the senior's done so often over her impressive career, Connolly promptly swiped second and third on consecutive pitches.
“Moriah was a warrior today,” Katchuk said of his fleet-footed third baseman who stole four total bags to end her season with 52. “They were pitching out on her every time.”
With Connolly standing at third with two outs, Logyn Lilley put PHU on the board with an RBI single up the middle. One batter later shortstop Jess Adams delivered for the 'Canes again by lashing a double into center that scored Lilley from first.
Lilley, who moved from second base to the pitcher's circle during the second inning, then began to temporarily tame the Wolves' bats to give PHU a fighting chance. The score remained 6-2 through the fifth before Timber Creek finally put the game out of reach.
The Wolves (25-5) recorded nine of their 19 hits in the final two innings, scoring three more times in both.
PHU (25-5) managed to scratch out a final run in the seventh on a Lilley sacrifice fly that scored Connolly and brought the game to its 12-3 final.
Despite Friday's undesirable finish, Adams said she was proud of the Hurricanes' effort and all they've accomplished this season.
“I will say we did fight until the end, even though the scoreboard doesn't say that,” she said. “We're a team with fight. Whether we were down 10-0 or 2-0 we always have that mindset that we're coming back. This time we just didn't come back.”
Starting pitcher Stephanie Adkins turned in a quality performance for the Wolves, striking out six and scattering seven hits. But the 'Canes were not without their opportunities, Katchuk said, putting at least one runner on base in each inning. “We just couldn't get the hits when we needed to.”
Wolves hitters experienced significantly more success in those moments Friday, with seven players recording multi-hit games. Mia Olson and Taillon Bernier hit Timber Creek's two long balls and Karina Pasarell led the Wolves with four RBIs.
Connolly reached base in all four at bats for PHU, going 3-for-3 and getting hit by a pitch to go along with her four steals. She finished the season 52 of 53 on stolen base attempts, as Wolves catcher Ariana Urbaez gunned her down on a pitch out in the fifth. It marked only the second time in Connolly's high school career she's been thrown out attempting a steal.
Adams wrapped up her high school career with a 2-for-4 performance that included two doubles and an RBI.
Timber Creek will now advance to next week's Class 8A state final four in Vero Beach to face the winner of Miami Goleman and Miami Coral Reef.
TCHS - 330 003 3 --- 12-19-2PHU - 002 000 1 --- 3-7-2
WP – Stephanie AdkinsLP – Rachel Taylor