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North softball team falls in Region 6A-3 regional final

Extra-inning loss ends Red Knights’ season

May 22, 2019
By CJ HADDAD ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

There's an old adage that says all good things must come to an end.

So was the case for the North Fort Myers High School softball team as the Red Knights dropped an edge-of-your-seat contest in 8 innings against Sebring in the Region 6A-3 championship game Friday night at Bobby Dewey Field.

"Hey, great game. Our kids didn't quit. We played hard," said North head coach Jeff Miner. "We showed a lot of heart."

Indeed the Red Knights did, as they faced a 2-0 deficit with their season on the line in the bottom of the seventh inning.

What followed was along the lines of what you would read in a movie script.

Emma Johnson, NFM's rock-solid pitcher in her senior year, stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs.

To begin the threat, Alysa Morris walked with one out to start the threat for the Red Knights, followed by a Haley Weaver single after a strikeout by Sebring pitcher Marci Barnhart. Weaver had a great night at the plate as a catalyst in the leadoff spot, going 3-for-4. Taylor Rosciti then drew a free pass to load the bases and set the stage for Johnson with the Red Knights' season on the line.

Barnhart would get two strikes on Johnson, but could not quiet her bat as the North High senior hit a hard ground ball through the left side that scored two runs and brought the game even at two.

North (20-11) failed to score again in the seventh and the game went to extra innings.

The Blue Streaks (25-2) would put the pressure right back on North, as Jacee Turner hit a high, swirling fly ball down the left field line for a leadoff triple in the eighth. Emily Bible would drive her in with a RBI single two batters later and Sebring regained the lead.

Clean-up hitter Alyssa Perez would add a sacrifice fly for good measure, putting Sebring up by two once again.

Perez reached base four times for the Blue streaks, going 1-for-1 with three walks and a double.

Alexis Morris led off the bottom of the eighth with a single for North, with the feeling of another comeback in the air. Barnhart would quickly stomp out any semblance of trouble, as she struck out the next three North hitters to secure Sebring's first-ever regional softball title.

"I give them credit. They're a great team. Great program," said Minor of a Sebring team, who was ranked No. 14 overall in the state of Florida by MaxPreps heading into the game. "Their pitcher threw outstanding. She had some good giddy-up, good spin, little rise ball -- we just couldn't catch up to it."

Barnhart, a junior caption, allowed just two hits heading into the final inning. She finished with an impressive 13 strikeouts over eight innings, surrendering two runs on five hits and walking seven.

Johnson was equally impressive for North. She ended her high school career going eight innings, allowing four runs and striking out six.

She was a major factor in the Red Knights' journey to the regional final, and a player that will not soon be forgotten at North.

"Phenomenal," Minor said of Johnson's time with the team. "She had to step up in a pitching role (following her sophomore season). She came on and she -- she's the reason why we're here. She picked up her game the last three or four as well, even with the bat. For a senior, what a way to end your career."

For the first five innings, each team had lots of traffic on the basepaths, but were stymied by each pitcher as they tightened things up when they needed to.

Sebring scored one run each in the sixth and the seventh to give the visiting squad its two-run advantage going into the last half-inning.

Senior Johneisha Rowe drove in the first run with a two-out RBI triple and Angie Oliveros singled home the second in a pinch-hitting role for insurance.

Jade Sinness also was outstanding at the plate for Sebring on the night, going 2-for-4 with a walk in the No.3 spot of the order.

"Best hitter we've faced all year. She was one tough out," said Miner.

"It was a heck of a game," said Blue Streaks' head coach Joe Sinness. "We've taken our lumps, but slowly we've progressed. This year, we've been able to turn it around and we're the on who's starting to win some of those close games.

"We've been road warriors all year. We love to go on the road. But tonight, I could see that there was a little bit of pressure. Both teams played an amazing ballgame. I'm proud of our girls."

Sebring will head to the Final Four of the FHSAA 6A Championships where they will take on Ridgeview.

- Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj



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