LONGWOOD, FLA.- For the fourth straight year, the Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers will play for the FCSAA State Championship after defeating Indian River 9-5 in a wild semifinal on Friday.
In four regular season matchups, the Bucs outscored the Pioneers 28-4. Fast forward to the playoffs and throw those numbers out the window. It was Indian River getting off to the hot start, finding holes on three first inning hits to score three runs to grab an early 3-0 lead.
The Bucs looked like they were going to answer right away as Rebeca Laudino smashed a triple to the gap to begin the FSW first, but the Bucs couldn't bring her home as she ended the inning stranded 60 feet from home as the Pioneers held a 3-0 lead after one inning of play.
With two outs in the second, the Bucs got things going as Pallas Potter hit one off the wall for a double and Alison Yawn walked to put two on. A walk to Laudino loaded the bases and Lindsey Corbin lined a single up the middle to bring home two to cut the Indian River lead to 3-2 after two.
An FSW error and two hit batters allowed the Pioneers to get something going in the top of the third, but Sarah Lawton came out of the Bucs bullpen to put out the fire to keep it a one run game at 3-2.
Hits from Natavia Ellis and Paris Woods to start the FSW third put two runners in scoring position with nobody out in the inning. Elsie Rivera came off the Bucs bench and laid down a perfect bunt to bring home pinch runner Ciara Ford from third to tie the game and later in the inning Potter lined one to left to score Woods on a sac fly to give FSW their first lead of the night at 4-3.
The Bucs held their momentum into the fourth as Corbin came up big with another big hit, this time an RBI double to push their lead to 5-3. FSW got a gift later in the inning as Indian River misplayed a fly ball to left field allowing another run to score, giving the Bucs a 6-3 lead at the end of four.
The Bucs defense let them down in the fifth as a pair of errors allowed the Pioneers to score two unearned runs to cut the lead back to one at 6-5. Later in the inning the Bucs caught a break though as with the bases loaded and two outs, the Indian River runner at third stepped off the base while Lawton was in the circle, resulting in an out and the end of the inning with FSW still leading 6-5.
The craziness played right into the bottom half of the inning as with two outs and a runner on second, Laudino laid down a perfect bunt and beat it out at first, but the throw was wide and went all the way into the right field corner, allowing Lexi Moore to score and then after a wild throw into the infield, Laudino herself scored on a little league home run to extend the Bucs lead to 8-5.
After Lawton struck out a pair in the Indian River sixth, the Bucs went back to work in the bottom half of the frame.
Madison Johnson started the inning with a check swing, back spin infield single that Tiger Woods' pitching wedge would be envious of. She moved to second on a groundout and with two outs in the inning, she came around to score on a bloop single from Bowers to add an insurance run to make it 9-5.
Indian River put a runner on in the seventh, but Lawton finished the Pioneers off in style with her sixth strikeout of the game as FSW hung on for a 9-5 win.
The Bucs outhit Indian River 10-7 while the game was sloppy on the defensive end with eight combined errors, five for the Pioneers and three for FSW. The top of the Bucs order was nails for FSW as Laudino was a perfect 3 for 3 with two runs scored and Corbin was 2 for 4 with three RBI's. Lawton was solid out of the FSW bullpen, earning the win to improve to 12-1 on the year, going 4 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and two unearned runs while striking out six.
FSW improves to 54-1 on the year with the victory while Indian River falls to 35-16.
The Bucs advance to their fourth straight FCSAA State Championship game on Saturday where they will take on #5 Central Florida at 4 PM with a trip to St. George and the NJCAA National Tournament on the line.