CLASS 6A: On verge of third title in four years, Sharks let Palmetto rally for a 3-2 win.
TAMPA - Everything was set for another state title.
Riverview had a 2-0 lead in the Class 6A final and its pitcher, two-time state championship winner Beth DiPietro, was sharp.
Then Miami Palmetto did something few teams have pulled off the past four years: It scratched out a hit here and there, ran aggressively and came back to beat the Sharks 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh Thursday night.
"We always believed we could win," Palmetto coach Becker Downie said. "When we got down that just got us going. It made us more determined."
Even when Riverview's Darlene Hollister smacked a home run over the leftfield fence in the first, Downie said, "We were fine, never got rattled."
This even while facing DiPietro, who went in 23-3 with 275 strikeouts (985 for her career) and a 0.21 ERA.
Downie said the confidence came partly because they prepared for DiPietro's outside pitches and rise ball. It didn't hurt they had played against her in summer travel ball.
"Once we batted through the lineup we adjusted real well," Downie said. "We got a feel for her."
Palmetto (30-3) tied it at 2 in the third, first on a run-scoring single, then on a failed 6-4-3 double-play attempt as a runner scored from second.
The winning run came on a single, a sacrifice bunt and a blooped run-scoring single to rightfield.
None of Palmetto's seven hits was struck sharply, but ...
"They did enough to win," Riverview coach Angela Slater said. "What can I say; they got the breaks and we didn't. I don't want to take anything away from them but there is a certain amount of luck involved.
"Believe me, we appreciate how difficult it is to win this thing."
The loss made Riverview 26-7 and ended one of the best runs in county history.
In 2000, the Sharks' first year of existence, they won the state title with DiPietro on the mound. They won again last year as DiPietro finished with a county-record 397 strikeouts.
Riverview second baseman Kaycie Maines said the state titles took some sting out of Thursday's defeat.
"To win the third title would have been incredible," Maines said. "But two state championships in four years, well, that's something that not too many teams can say.
"I'm very proud of what we've accomplished."
Seminole Presbyterian (now called Cambridge) is the only other Hillsborough county school with two state titles, in 1997 and 1998.