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Late run clinches title for Durant

Cougars pitcher Krista Olson quiets Riverview bats in head-to-head duel with Sharks ace Beth DiPietro.


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 30, 2003

BRANDON -- Although King finished fourth, Lions pitcher Niki Bradshaw's performance on the mound and positive attitude throughout the Spring Fling Invitational earned her MVP honors as selected by the umpires.

Durant (14-1), however, won the tournament championship with a 2-1 win over Riverview. East Bay was third after a 5-3 win over King and River Ridge was fifth following a 2-1 win over Plant in 11 innings.

"With so many great pitchers and players in this tournament, it is hard for me to believe they selected me," Bradshaw said. "This was a great tournament and I really liked going up against some super competition. Some of the pitchers have already signed to play in Division I in college. Our team simply played its heart out to take fourth here."

In the championship game, Durant scored one run in the fourth inning of a pitchers' duel between Riverview's Beth DiPietro and the Cougars' Krista Olson, and after a scoreless fifth, it looked like a 1-0 lead would hold up.

Ashley Fertic, the Cougars' sophomore shortstop, reached base on a single up the middle and advanced to second on a grounder by Olson. Fertic then took third on a grounder by Amy Beck and scored on a single by Beth Nolan.

In the sixth, with Kaycie Maines on first base following a single, Riverview's Kelly Holmes hit a hard infield grounder and made it safely to first with the help of a wild throw that sailed into rightfield. As Durant chased down the ball, Maines scored for a 1-1 tie.

But Megan Manso replaced DiPietro on the mound in the bottom of the sixth and was hammered by the Cougars for three hits and a run. Pinch-runner Keri Glad scored the winner for Durant on a single by Beck.

"Our girls played an awesome tournament this year," Durant coach Melissa Sigmon said. "Right now everything seems to be coming together for us. They are making good contact with the ball, but much of the time it goes right to someone. We are going to work on that. Our defense is very good and continues to improve."

Fertic turned in a super tournament for the Cougars. Offensively, she reached base 11 times in 12 at-bats and had seven hits. Defensively, she assisted in 16 putouts and retired four batters on popups.

There were several extra-inning games in the tournament, but one of the most intense was the 11-inning marathon between River Ridge and Plant in the battle for fifth.

River Ridge placed second in Class 4A in the state tournament last year and has been battling Plant for the No. 1 state ranking this season. The Panthers entered the tournament 12-0 and left with a pair of losses.

In the bottom of the 11th, River Ridge broke the tie when pinch-runner Christina Karl scored on a single by Meghan Chaple.

"We had a lot of chances throughout the game, but we made some mistakes," River Ridge coach Ernie Beck said. "But we played a very good team.

"I like coming to this tournament. It gives me opportunities to meet some very tough competition and to play some of my freshmen in non-district games.

"We faced some good players and teams this weekend."

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