By Kyle LoJacono
Academy at the Lakes pitcher Sydney Boynton couldn’t stop thinking about the district softball finals all day April 19.
The wait was worth it for the junior, who threw a complete game with seven strikeouts to help the Wildcats (13-4) beat Class 2A-District 4 tournament host Hernando Christian (15-6). Boynton also had two hits and two RBI, the first of each in the first inning to give her squad a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
The Lions got on the board the second when Ashley McKay hit a lead-off triple and scored on an error. Boynton (7-2, 1.88 ERA) avoided more damage with two quick outs, the first of 12 straight batters she retired including six Ks thanks in large part to her devastating changeup.
“It’s a really tough pitch to hit,” said academy sophomore catcher Rebecca Hannah, who had an RBI single. “When I’m batting in practice it’s tough. It’s really offspeed, and if she can get it there it’s a big weapon. We’ll call it at any point.”
Boynton said she was having trouble controlling her changeup early, but found the feel for it midway through.
“I worked like a year and a half to perfect that pitch, and it’s definitely my best pitch,” Boynton said. “It’s a huge factor in games with good hitters like these. When it’s on I feel really good, and most people aren’t used to a change that offspeed.”
Hernando Christian mounted a rally in the seventh, recording three hits and scoring their first earned run. Boynton induced a ground ball to sophomore shortstop Lauren Evans with two outs and runners on first and second to end the contest.
“I was really nervous in the seventh inning,” said Evans, who scored two runs. “I just wanted to get the game over so we could get the trophy.”
The Wildcats have made the playoffs the last five years since becoming eligible, but this is the first district championship for the program.
The Wildcats are also young with only one senior and three juniors.
“We got some girls out here the first day of practice who didn’t know how to throw or even put their glove on,” said Evans, a University of South Florida commit. “It was definitely back to teaching softball 101, but they learned a lot and we brought it together for the win.”
The academy receives a bye to the regional semifinals April 27 against the winner of Deltona Trinity Christian and Hernando Christian. The academy would travel to Deltona at 7 p.m. or host Hernando at 4 p.m.
Bishop claims third straight
The Bishop McLaughlin softball team won its third district title in as many years on April 19.
The Hurricanes (13-14) led 2-0 in first inning and added a pair of runs in the third to get by Seffner Christian 4-3 for the Class 3A-District 8 crown. Spencer Valdespino had an RBI single to open up the ‘Canes’ scoring.
Bishop McLaughlin defeated Tampa Prep 10-9 in the semis thanks to a pair of inside-the-park home runs from Valdespino, the second in walk-off fashion. The ‘Canes led 9-2 after the fifth, but the Terrapins fought back to score two in the sixth and five in the seventh to tie the game.
The Hurricanes host Lakeland Christian April 25 at 7 p.m.