BALDWIN - Against Providence less than a week ago, an in-the-park homer from Kiley Channell gave the Keystone Heights High softball girls a quick 2-0 lead in their region 1-3A semifinal that held to …
BALDWIN - Against Providence less than a week ago, an in-the-park homer from Kiley Channell gave the Keystone Heights High softball girls a quick 2-0 lead in their region 1-3A semifinal that held to a 3-1 win and a berth in the region championship.
In Thursday’s region final against top-seed Baldwin, the third seed Lady Indians again started with a flash off a first-inning, second pitch solo homer from Alaina Kinsal that shocked the standing-room crowd at Baldwin High including a raucous bunch in centerfield.
Keystone Heights’ senior pitcher Madi Mitzel then opened with two strikes against Baldwin’s first batter, Rylan Gray, which sucked the energy a bit from the Baldwin dugout. Baldwin calmly got two singles in play, but Mitzel whiffed Baldwin power hitter Kayla Robinson; five homers on the season, to close the inning.
As they did against Providence, the Keystone Heights defense made things dicey for the Baldwin bats with left fielder Jaiden Robinson stealing two possible extra-base hits with stabs near the left-field fence, but Baldwin showed championship mettle after a fourth-inning two-run homer from pitcher Piper Young off Mitzel put the Baldwin Indians back in the game 2-1.
With the sun setting, the game looked to be a “Who Blinks First?” contest to be settled with both teams moving baserunners into position, but defensive plays again squelching the opportunities.
In the second inning, Mitzel doubles on the first pitch and Robinson walks. Groundout at second base ends the threat.
Young singles to deep left field, but Robinson is quick to retrieve and return to the infield to keep Young at first base. Young moves to second on a bunt, and Mitzel throttles up with strikeout to put Baldwin in the dugout.
Third, Kinsal walks, and Abbie Roach hits a shot to second base that gets bobbled to put two baserunners in play. Mitzel grounds out.
Baldwin’s Rylan Gray singles deep to left of shortstop Channell who makes a diving stab, but can’t right up for a long throw., Keystone Heights third baseman Kinley Carlton snares hard grounder that she sends to Kinsal at second who steps over Gray and fires to first base Delia Johnson to complete scintillating double play with Robinson tracking a long flyball at the left-field corner to end the inning.
In the top of the fourth, Caitlin Frampton doubles and reaches third on a Robinson bunt, but a flyball to Emma Rogel leaves her stranded.
Drama in the bottom of the fourth with Mitzel walking Robinson and Young sending a homer that bounces on top of the left-field fence to put Baldwin up 2-1. Mitzel responds with a strikeout, but Baldwin gets a double from Chloe Stephenson and an errant throw to first from Rogel on a bunt gets a third run, 3-1, for Baldwin and Frampton on the mound. Frampton stops the momentum with a wicked swinging strike three.
Top of the sixth and Keystone Heights gets a left-field homer from Delia Johnson that scores the game 3-2 with grounders ending the inning.
Frampton stays the course with three batters up and out quickly with Mitzel, now at first, snaring a sharp line drive for the first out.
Keystone Heights’ final shot came in the seventh with Kinsal singling and Channell getting on base by outsprinting a hard grounder to shortstop, but Roach and Carlton both hit flyballs for outs.
Keystone Heights finishes at 19-10 with a strong Clay County presence with wins over Oakleaf, Ridgeview and Middleburg twice.
Baldwin (26-2) enters the Class 3A Final Four with a state semifinal against Calvary Christian (22-6) on Wed., May 25. The second state semifinal features top-seed Coral Springs Charter (23-3) against fourth seed Hernando (24-4).
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