By STEVE LEE, Times Staff Writer
Zephyrhills loses 2-0 to Lakeland McKeel in its host tournament.
ZEPHYRHILLS - Pinch-hitter Hayley Decker's path to first base in the seventh inning made the difference in Wednesday's Zephyrhills Spring Break tournament final.
With two Zephyrhills runners on base, Decker laid down a bunt along the third-base line that Lakeland McKeel catcher Brandi Watson fielded. But Watson's throw glanced off Decker's back and into rightfield, allowing Jessica Davis and Melissa Miller to score.
But Decker was ruled out of the base line, which resulted in an automatic out and the baserunners retreated. So instead of Zephyrhills tying the score at 2, McKeel left town with a 2-0 win after Kim Hapeman struck out.
"It's been happening like that all year long," McKeel coach Larry Harvey said of the close call.
Zephyrhills coach Craig Milburn could not argue the "dead ball" call, but noting his team's 2-1 loss earlier this season to unbeaten McKeel added, "We've given them all they could handle."
Zephyrhills beat Naples Lely 10-0 and McKeel, a Class 2A state finalist last season that's off to a 17-0 start this year, defeated Tampa Cambridge 13-0 in Tuesday's first round.
McKeel scored its runs in nearly identical fashion. Tiffany Harvey doubled deep to leftfield in the third and scored on Jessica Jacobs' single. In the fourth, Cass Faircloth doubled to deep right and came in on Ashley Hunt's single.
The Bulldogs (7-4) got out of a jam in the fourth when catcher Caryn Allison threw out baserunners at third and first.
Jenn Wright (17-0) kept the Zephyrhills hitters off-balance with a fastball and changeup. She pitched a four-hitter, striking out 14 and walking one.
Teresa Doolittle had two of those hits and reached on an error in the second. Zephyrhills had its best scoring chance in that inning. Ashley Anderton singled, Doolittle got on on an infield error and Miller walked. But with the bases loaded and one out, Wright fanned Samantha Smith and Hapeman.
"We just couldn't get the big hit when we needed it," Milburn said.
In the consolation game, Lely defeated Cambridge 5-2.