Suwannee softball falls in state semis to Lake Wales
Published: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 12:17 a.m.
VERO BEACH — During Suwannee's 10-game softball winning streak, the Bulldogs reached new heights their program had never attained before with district and regional championships.
But their quest to reach the mountaintop, to play for the Class 5A state title in their first-ever appearance at the state tournament, didn't happen Wednesday at the Vero Beach Sports Village.
Lake Wales got a great pitching performance by senior Kelsey Oller and jumped on Suwannee early, getting six hits and three runs off standout lefty Audre Bryant, to cruise to a 5-1 victory, putting the Highlanders in their fourth state final.
Freshman Jordan Roberts' sixth-inning home run was the bright spot for the Bulldogs (17-10), who had 14 popouts with the game appropriately ending with one.
Prior to the state semifinal, Bryant had been nearly unhittable, throwing back-to-back shutout wins the first two regional games, then giving up just two hits through six innings in a 8-2 regional final win at Ponte Vedra.
But that was hardly the case Wednesday as Lake Wales (19-10) had six singles among its first seven batters to take control and never look back.
“Unfortunately, I think their bat speed was a little slower than what we had seen the last couple of weeks,” said Suwannee coach Tommy Chambers. “Out of the nine hits they got off of her, I bet five of them were just dinks right over our infielder's head. You have to have a little luck to get here too.
“Don't take anything away from them, they put the ball in play when they needed to. Their bat speed was a little more comparable to her speed and allowed them to get some hits.”
Bryant (6-2), a junior who had won her last six outings, was pulled with two outs in the third. Sophomore Haejin Choe came in relief and gave up just one hit in 3.1 innings of work.
Oller allowed only four hits with four strikeouts and three walks. She had plenty of defensive help, mostly with Highlanders catching fly balls.
The Bulldogs also had three errors, two in the third where Lake Wales scored two unearned runs.
“All year long we have been hitting the ball, particularly in the last 10-11 games, but tonight she (Oller) shut us down,” Chambers said. “We didn't have but four hits, and you're not going to win many ballgames with that. And we had 14 popups. That's a shame.
“I'm so proud of these bunch of girls. This is the first time in school history we have been here, had a taste of this. And people like Jessie (TenBroeck) and the other two seniors set a foundation for these younger girls.”
TenBroeck, the area's leader in stolen bases, never got a chance to steal on Wednesday, although she did have one hit. The Stetson signee said the speed of the Oller's pitches were slower than what the team was used to.
“So a lot of us were in front of the ball,” she said. “This season has meant a lot. Even the previous 10 years, we hadn't won a district championship. So like no one expected it. For us to get this far is amazing.”