By Jeff Odom
The Laker/Lutz News Correspondent
The Class 7A-District 9 tournament didn’t end with a championship for host Steinbrenner April 19, but the finals appearance secures a postseason spot.
Despite keeping the No. 1 seeded Chamberlain’s offense on ice through most of the game, the No. 3 Warriors (17-7) didn’t have many answers either, falling 2-1.
“I think we got runners on base, and we definitely had our opportunities,” said Steinbrenner coach Colleen Sanders. “I really don’t know what happened.”
The Chiefs (22-7) opened the first inning with Bianka Bell smacking a single followed by a Lindsey Hagberg base hit to put two on with one out. Warriors pitcher Kellee Ramsey (12-7, 3.07 ERA) walked Ellen Scott before Kelly Smith followed with a two-RBI single.
“(Ramsey) was very confident coming in,” Sanders said. She then added, “I know we gave up two runs in the first inning, but I think she stayed very strong.”
The Warriors got on the board in the third.
With Erin Knoeppel on after a leadoff walk, Erica Serafini hit a grounder to the second baseman who tried to turn a double play but dropped the ball after getting the lead runner. Serafini stole second, allowing Kaylee Ferrell to drive her in with a single.
Steinbrenner moved multiple runners into scoring position during the last five innings, but Chiefs pitcher Rachel Dwyer wouldn’t flinch.
“We had runners on, but we didn’t get those timely hits that we needed,” Sanders said. “All of our girls have the potential and we have strong bats. We just needed to come through at those times when we had runners in scoring position, and we didn’t do it.”
Steinbrenner put pressure on Chamberlain with two outs in the seventh. Knoeppel got on with a two-out bunt down the third base line. However, the threat was short lived as Paige Cimino grounded out.
The Warriors made the postseason for the second time in the program’s three-year history with their 2-0 win over Freedom in the semis April 18. Ramsey came close to her third no-hitter of the season, but it was broken up in the sixth inning.
A Patriots’ seventh-inning comeback ended with a double play on an attempted squeeze bunt popped up to third baseman Taylor Morrow, who fired the ball to catcher Alia Serafini to finish the contest.
Wiregrass Ranch got past Gaither in the first round April 17, but couldn’t muster a win against the Chiefs in the other semifinal, falling 12-2 in five innings.
Even though her team couldn’t hoist the championship trophy, Sanders said she is looking forward to the next round and knows her team is ready.
“It really does feel good,” Sanders said. “This is a brand new program and it feels very nice to have started this program, and I think it is definitely coming around over the last three years. I think we’re getting established, and I think people think they need to look out for us.”
Steinbrenner travels to Countryside April 25 at 7 p.m.
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