Stout defense and a complete game shutout from Ashleigh Grove helped Citrus Park hold off Pinellas Park National 5-0 to win the state senior softball title Thursday. "It's determination," manager Marisol Hester said. "We have great bats, but they do what they have to do. If we need a drag bunt or a slap hit to move runners around, whatever, they do it."
Four runs in the second inning sunk Pinellas Park. Megan Baker and Shannon Federico led off with singles. Kayla Sicarrotta and Stacey Overholt bunted, and a couple of errors allowed all four Citrus Park players to score.
Kara Willis singled in the fourth, moved to second on a fielder's choice and scored on an error.
Citrus Park's defense had no problems behind Grove, who walked one.
"She's a finesse pitcher," Hester said. "Even when they do hit the ball, when you have that defense behind her, it's easier to be more confident. They made plays I thought only the pros could make. Wherever the ball was hit, the girl made the play."
Tampa Bay's major girls could follow in Citrus Park's footsteps after beating Tri-County 19-9. The victory gave Tampa Bay a 3-0 record in pool play and the No.1 seed in the North bracket. It will face Eau Gallie-Naples loser Saturday in the state semifinals in Port St. Lucie.
Tampa Bay will have the advantage of three rested pitchers. It had a pair of four-inning no-hitters Wednesday. Talia Barron, Kirsten Kelsey, Courtney Kraemer and Kayla Suskauer each threw an inning in a 19-0 win vs. St. John, and Suskauer shut out Deltona.
Barron threw four innings against Tri-County, striking out five and allowing five runs on five hits. Kelsey and Kraemer had triples and Barron, Suskauer, Lizzy Mischo and Cortney Croney doubles.
"We're focused but not overconfident," manager Don Barron said. "Don't mistake our confidence for cockiness. We're feeling good and we want to keep it going, but we know that going to the Final Four they're all good."