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Tarpons nip Knights’ winning streak

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Apr 21, 2021

North Fort Myers pitcher Kendall Wylie delivers a pitch during their April 13 game against Charlotte. CHUCK BALLARO

news@breezenewspapers.com

The North Fort Myers softball team has really been playing its best ball as the postseason comes next week. It had won nine straight going into its district game at Charlotte last Tuesday.

However, it was the Tarpons who took advantage of opportunities given to them by the Red Knights, and with great pitching and defense, Charlotte was able to end North’s winning streak with a 5-2 victory.

This will likely mean the road to the District 5A-8 championship will go through Charlotte, which has given North a challenge in recent years.

“There wasn’t one moment where you could relax. North is a great team and every pitch you call has to be precise,” Charlotte coach Greg Higgins said.

The Red Knights (18-5) got off to a good start, scoring both its runs in the first inning. Desiree Devine led off with a single before Kendall Wylie drove her home with a one-out triple. Sarah Hamilton added a sacrifice fly to center to bring home Wylie to give North a 2-0 lead.

However, Laci Hendrickson put the clamps down on North, retiring the next 12 batters in order and not allowing anyone to score the rest of the night. She allowed six hits while not walking anyone in her complete game effort.

“The team pushed me and gave me confidence. They had my back and made plays to keep us in the game. The plays we made were important, one bad ball and it’s a different game,” Hendrickson said.

Meanwhile, Wylie struggled with her command, walking five while allowing eight hits in her six innings, and that haunted her in the second inning as she walked two and allowed four hits. Savannah Jacobs had the key blow, a two-run triple that tied the game, while Kasserly Hopper singled home what would be the game-winning run.

Charlotte (12-7) struck again in the fourth. Alyssa Rajish led off with a walk. Amber Chumley bunted for a base hit. When North first baseman Sydney Morris attempted to get the runner on second, the ball sailed wild and all the way to the wall, allowing Rajish to score.

Hopper drove in another run with a grounder to third to produce the final score. North brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh, but couldn’t get closer as Charlotte played flawless defense, and got several great plays from first baseman Lexie Fitzgerald, including an unassisted double play in the sixth.

North coach Jeff Miner said he wasn’t concerned, as his team played well in the beginning and the end. It was the middle where they faltered.

“Their pitcher kept us off balance. We played great defense, though we gave away an inning by walking the nine hitter and throwing a ball away for two runs, otherwise, it’s a 3-2 game,” Miner said. “I was proud of how we finished. You have to pick up positives in this game.”

It was the start of a tough week for North, as it played against some of the toughest competition in the state as it split four games at a tournament in St. Petersburg. They lost to Calvary Christian 7-4 and Bishop Verot 3-2 while defeating Immokalee 5-4 and Lely of Naples 15-0.