St. Cloud couldn’t find an answer for undefeated and No. 3-ranked Winter Springs in Thursday’s Region 8A-3 quarterfinal playoff game, falling 12-5.
The Bulldogs, who had a four-year district championship string snapped last week, end the year at 19-8-1 and ranked No. 18 in Class 8A by MaxPreps. The Bears (27-0), who are No. 28 in the nation, face district foe Hagerty in Tuesday’s regional semifinal. The Huskies downed Windermere, who beat St. Cloud in the District 8A-10 title game, 7-5 on Wednesday.
The game started about as rough as it could for the Bulldogs, who were down 10-0 after three innings thanks to a pair of home runs from Bears pitcher Aynslie Furbush.
St. Cloud did rally for four runs in the fifth inning to hold off the mercy rule. The Bulldogs loaded the bases and followed with an RBI single by Ariana Manzanares, who later scored on a wild pitch, a bases-loaded walk by Leah Gonzalez, Vanessa Davis’ RBI single and Alyssa O’Donnell’s bases-loaded hit by pitch.
“We just dug ourselves too deep a hole, (Winter Springs) did a great job at the start,” Bulldogs Coach Ray Whobrey said. “We even tried going to a different pitcher who has a good changeup to throw off their timing and get them to pop the ball up. We just made too many mistakes.
“I was proud to see the girls have a big inning like that to try to get back in it.”
O’Donnell (pitcher), Manzanares (third base) and Lindsey Burns (right field), who also singled Wednesday, graduate, meaning six starters will return: sophomore Gonzalez (catcher) and juniors Taylor McFann (first base), Marley McNutt (center field), Davis (left field), Morgan Watral (shortstop) and Amy McNabb (second base).
“The hurt will be losing Alyssa, but I think we’re in great shape for next year,” Whobrey said. “This will be an important summer for us to develop that pitching.”
St. Cloud will likely be a Class 7A team in 2020, when the state should pare baseball and softball down from nine classes to eight like it did with volleyball, basketball and football. The FHSAA should release new districts and regions sometime after the state tournament ends in late May or early June.