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North softball team wins nailbiter to advance

May 17, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

North Fort Myers has been so close in recent years, only to have its softball season end in heartbreak with the finish line in sight.

Twice in the last three years the Red Knights reached the regional finals. Each time they came up empty.

Not this time. Not on this night. Not with five seniors, who felt the sense of urgency, and a team that saw its window of opportunity on the verge of slamming shut.

Article Photos

North Fort Myers catcher Shelby Coyne is mobbed by teammates Sajarie Jones (16) and Summer Ackerson (00) after scoring the winning run in a 1-0 Red Knight victory in the Region 6A-3 championship game.


Shelby Coyne tripled and scored on a wild pitch to give the Red Knights a thrilling 1-0 victory Friday night over Tarpon Springs in the Region 6A-3 championship game at Bobbie Dewey Field.

The Red Knights (27-3) advance to the state final four, their first since 2009, where they face Land O' Lakes at 12:20 p.m. next Friday in the 6A state semifinals at Dodgertown in Vero Beach.

For the seniors, it is an accomplishment long overdue.

"We've been trying for this for four years and it means a lot to win this game. We've worked so hard and it's really paid off," pitcher MacKenzie Peterson said. "We lost as freshmen and last year, so to win this is amazing. We've finally made it."

Neither team had many opportunities to score as Peterson and Tarpon Springs hurler Morgan Mills put up goose egg after goose egg, leaving the outfielders on both teams with little to do but retrieve the stray ball that happened to get past the infield. Neither pitcher walked a batter,

Finally, in the seventh, Coyne led off with a shot to center that glanced off Cameryn Maga's glove for a triple. One pitch later, a Mills pitch got past catcher Kelsi Jeffries. Coyne hesitated, then raced home with the winning run and into the arms of her jubilant teammates.

"I felt really good going into the at-bat. I knew I would have to wait on it and I knew this was the inning we would score," Coyne said. "I knew we needed only one, so I didn't try to hit it far, but get on base. It happened to be a triple."

It was apparent early that one run probably would be enough to win. Mills had the North batters off stride most of the night, allowing just five hits while striking out four for the Spongers (13-9).

As good as Mills was, Peterson was even better. As the game got hotter, she became the coolest player on the field. She retired the last 10 batters she faced and allowed just two hits with seven strikeouts.

"I came in nervous and excited, but I felt better and better the more I pitched. I get better in the later innings as I really get into the game and become more excited," Peterson said.

Jeff Miner, who coached the previous Knights team that reached states, said it's a feeling that doesn't get old, especially for this group of seniors.

"This has been a blessing coaching this group of kids. When you work with good people, have a great coaching staff and kids, it doesn't get any better than this," Miner said.

All four of the remaining teams in the Class 6A final four are district champions.


Regional Finals

Region 6A-3

Friday, May 12

North Fort Myers 1, Tarpon Springs 0

FHSAA State Championship

at Dodgertown, Vero Beach

Friday, May 19

Class 6A Semifinals

Ponte Vedra vs. American Heritage, 11:05 a.m.

Land O' Lakes vs. North Fort Myers, 12:20 p.m.

Saturday, May 20

Class 6A Finals

TBD, 12:35 p.m.



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