PALM HARBOR — A late six-run outburst propelled visiting Dunedin to an 8-2 win Wednesday afternoon at Palm Harbor University.
Knotted at 2-2 heading into the seventh inning, the Falcons’ offense opened up on PHU and plated all six of its runs with two outs.
“I just wanted to shorten up my swing and have a good at-bat to get the runs in,” said senior shortstop Tiona Hill of her tiebreaking, two-run single up the middle.
Natalie Barrentine and Taylor Scott started the rally by reaching on infield singles. Catcher Abigail Sexton then worked a tough walk off PHU pitcher Logan Lilley that loaded the bases and set the table for Hill.
“Hats off to our senior for getting the big hit up the middle to open it up,” Dunedin coach Roy Silver said of Hill.
Dunedin pitcher Aubrey Ehlers pushed the lead to 6-2 with a two-run base hit. Amanda Alman capped the five-hit, six-run onslaught with an RBI double to left field.
The win over PHU is such a rarity for Dunedin that Falcons coaches wondered aloud if it’s ever been done at all.
“We haven’t beaten them in my four years here,” Hill said of the late-season win. “We’ve always wanted to beat Palm Harbor so this is exciting.”
“[PHU] Coach Kerry [Katchuk] and I, we scheduled this game for the end of the season for this purpose,” Silver said of Wednesday’s non-league finale. “It’s two good teams going toe-to-toe and it could’ve went either way.”
As both programs now prepare for separate district tournaments next week, Wednesday’s game was between two teams currently headed in opposite directions.
Dunedin (16-5) has now won six straight by a combined score of 52-6. Two of those victories came against state-ranked opponents – Mitchell and PHU.
The Hurricanes (16-6) find themselves mired in a three-game slump before hosting Bradenton Manatee on Tuesday.
“We had some real good at-bats today and we battled, but they’re a good ball club,” Katchuk said. “Their pitcher [Ehlers] and catcher [Sexton] are as good as I’ve seen all year.
“We’ve been struggling a little bit but we’re getting there and I expect us to come in Tuesday and play a good game against Manatee.”
Ehlers ended her regular season with a strong, complete-game victory over one of the best lineups in Pinellas County. The junior only struck out three, but walked none and scattered seven hits.
“She’s been great all year,” Silver said of Ehlers. “There was one start earlier in the year where she was not herself. We addressed that with her and she accepted the challenge and she has been doing a great job.”
The ‘Canes didn’t get to Ehlers until the sixth, when three consecutive singles from Lilley, Rachel Taylor and Katie Flanagan evened the score at 2-2. Flanagan’s single to right coupled with a fielding error brought around both runs.
Dunedin grabbed the initial 2-0 lead in the fifth after Scott flung a two-run single into shallow left.
Five Falcons (Alman, Ehlers, Hill, Scott and Sexton) recorded two-hit days, as the offense banged out 12 total hits.
Lilley and Taylor both went 2-for-3 for PHU.
Dunedin will enter next week’s Class 5A District 8 tournament at River Ridge as the top overall seed.
Dun - 000 020 6 --- 8-12-1
PHU - 000 002 0 --- 2-7-1
Aubrey Ehlers – W, 7.0 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 7 H, 3 K, 0 BB – 2-for-4, 2 RBI, 1 R
Tiona Hill – 2-for-4, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB
Taylor Scott – 2-for-4, 2 RBI, 1 R
Abigail Sexton – 2-for-3, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 BB
Palm Harbor University (16-6)
Rachel Taylor – 2-for-3, 1 R
Logan Lilley – L, 7.0 IP, 8 R, 6 ER, 12 H, 0 K, 2 BB – 2-for-3, 1 R
Katie Flanagan – 1-for-3, 1 RBI