By PETE YOUNG
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001
PALM HARBOR -- It happened every inning, inning after inning -- Palm Harbor University would get a base hit.
In the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth, the Hurricanes stroked a hit off Sarasota's Marisa Chase.
Those innings had another repetitive theme, however: no runs. Chase & Company barred the door every time.
The scoreless game steamed into extra innings before PHU flinched in the top of the ninth, as Sarasota scored three runs to win the Class 5A, Region 3 semifinal 3-0 and advance to play Chamberlain for a berth in the final four.
"We threatened every inning," said PHU coach Chuck Poetter, whose team won the state title in 1999 and was runner-up last season. "We could not bunt and we could not execute."
Hurricanes' pitcher Katie Dobson (15-2) was her usual unflappable self until the top of the ninth. Dobson (seven strikeouts, five hits, no walks) plunked the first two Sarasota (25-6) batters, Heather Congdon and Missy Perez, and a sacrifice bunt by Lindsay Bush put runners at second and third with one out.
Shelley Bartlett grounded to shortstop Christy Boyle, and Congdon bolted for home -- and stopped halfway. Boyle began to move toward Congdon, who again broke for home. Boyle's delayed throw was in the dirt and Sarasota led 1-0.
Meghan Kowal then gave the Sailors breathing room, blasting a two-run double to right-center.
"It was a war out there," said Sarasota coach Jack Hartman, whose team lost 1-0 to PHU (27-5) earlier this season. "Somehow we hung on and won."
In the seventh inning with a runner on third, Kowal turned on a high, inside fastball, fouled it off her face and collapsed. After a few minutes of medical attention, she stayed in the game and hit a grounder up the middle that Boyle made a fabulous play on to keep it scoreless. However, Kowal delivered the back-breaking blow on her next chance.
"It hurt so bad, but I hate coming out," said Kowal, who had bumps on her forehead and the bridge of her nose. "Those two runs were our safety net."
The Sailors almost needed that safety net. In the bottom of the ninth with runners on second and third, Kristin Weber hit a rocket right at shortstop Callie Morrill to end PHU's season.
"It makes me very sad to see (the seniors) leave under these circumstances, but hey, everybody but one team loses their last game," Poetter said. "I certainly can't say anything but good things about my kids. I love them to death."