DUNEDIN — Dunedin grabbed control of second place in Class 5A District 8 with its season-high third straight win Tuesday.
The Falcons (5-3, 4-1) took out previously unbeaten Gulf High 6-3, combining another solid effort from junior pitcher Aubrey Ehlers with steady defense and some opportunistic hitting.
“They knew this was an important game for districts,” Dunedin coach Sarah Broeseker said. “They've been practicing hard and it pays off.”
Gulf (7-1, 4-1) entered Tuesday having outscored its opposition 60-9 but were kept off-balance all night by Ehlers. The junior mixed speeds effectively and struck out four while scattering eight hits over seven innings.
After falling behind 1-0 in the second, Dunedin took the lead for good with a three-run third. Just like each of its runs on the night, all were unearned. The damage also came after Gulf pitcher Madison Morlan retired the first two Falcons batters. Centerfielder Taylor Scott started the two-out rally with her second of three base hits on the night. When a fielding error allowed Abigail Sexton to extend the frame, Dunedin took advantage with Tiona Hill's two-run single into right-center. Hill came around shortly after to make it 3-1 on an errant throw.
The Falcons' defense wasn't flawless Tuesday, but managed to limit the impact of its miscues. Third baseman Olivia Silver had a busy night and helped Ehlers by recording eight assists, two putouts and turning a 5-3, inning-ending double play in the second.
“What I really liked about the defense tonight was that even when one mistake was made we didn't compound the problem,” Broeseker said.
Dunedin separated itself from Gulf with another three-spot in the fifth that saw Scott bunt her way to an inside-the-park home run. With Silver on first, Scott's sacrifice to third was overthrown into right-field foul territory, allowing both runners to score. The lead grew to 6-1 went Amanda Alman drove in Ehlers with a single.
Gulf plated a pair of runs in the seventh to cut the deficit to 6-3, but Ehlers and Silver fittingly shut the door with a groundout to third.
Buccaneers senior Tarra Rice drove in one of the seventh-inning runs with her third single of the night. Corner outfielders Haley McCarthy and Alicia Boyolan each had two-hit nights.
Seven of nine Dunedin batters recorded at least one hit, led by Scott's three and Sexton's two.
Tuesday's game was delayed for about 30 minutes in the sixth when Gulf centerfielder Hanna McCarthy had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. The junior was hit in the head with a tag while trying to steal second base and then fell to the ground.
The Falcons can push their run of good fortune to four games on Thursday night at home against winless Largo High.
Gulf finishes off its week with Tampa Catholic on Thursday and a trip to District 5A-8 foe Land O' Lakes on Friday.
GHS - 010 000 2 --- 3-8-5
DHS - 003 030 x --- 6-10-4
LP – Madison Morlan (4-1)
Tarra Rice – 3-for-4, 1 RBI, 1 SB
Haley McCarthy – 2-for-3, 1 RBI
Alicia Boyolan – 2-for-3, 1 R
Aubrey Ehlers – W, 7.0 IP, 3 R, 1 ER, 8 H, 4 K, 1 BB – 1-for-3, 1 R
Taylor Scott – 3-for-4, 2 R, 1 Inside-the-park home run
Olivia Silver – 1-for-4, 1 R – Defense at 3B (8 A, 2 PO, 1 DP)