For 11 pressure-packed innings Wednesday, the Ida Baker Bulldogs were as focused as they had been the entire season. It led to one clutch play after another.
On the play that ultimately decided a classic District 5A-15 semifinals game, the Bulldogs never had a chance.
Fort Myers senior Lindsey Caserio shattered the Bulldogs' hopes of reaching the title game with a walk-off three-run home run to left field in the bottom of the 11th, giving the host Green Wave a 3-1 win.
Ida Baker second baseman Tara Sozio (left) looks for the call as she applies the tag on a runner in the first inning against Fort Myers Wednesday. More photos are available online at: cu.cape-coral-daily-breeze.com.
The game-winning blast put the second-seeded Wave (18-9) into Friday's championship game where they face top seed North Fort Myers (23-3).
The Red Knights blanked Barron Collier 4-0 in the second game Wednesday, setting up a third meeting against the Wave.
The emotion changed quickly. In the top of the 11th, Baker senior Jamie Ross delivered a two-out RBI single to center, scoring Allie Hare, which put the Bulldogs on the verge of victory after 10 scoreless innings.
The Wave put the first two runners on in the bottom of the 11th, but after the Bulldogs got two outs it all came down to Caserio.
"I knew I would be either the last out or I had to do something about it," she said. "I just swung and hoped for the best."
The Bulldogs (14-12) hoped to reach the district finals for the second straight year. They got sharp all-around play defensively Wednesday as they did in their 6-3 victory over Mariner in a quarterfinals game Tuesday.
They also received a stellar pitching performance from senior Kayla Vetter. Vetter and Fort Myers senior Lindsey Richardson each threw all 11 innings for their teams. Richardson fanned 19 batters.
Vetter struck out nine and also battled through a difficult game physically. She injured her leg getting an out at the plate in the second, collided with a runner in the third and got hit by a pitch on the wrist in the sixth.
"You can't keep her down," Baker coach Morgan Klare said. "(Kayla) pitched one heck of a game."
Both teams had chances to get on the board throughout the contest, but the sound defense continued to show up at key moments.
Baker senior Caitlin Holloway slammed a double into the left-field corner to start the game, but was thrown out at the plate later in the inning after a bunt back to the mound.
The Bulldogs also recorded an out at the plate in the bottom of the second. Hare, the catcher, retrieved a wild pitch and tossed to Vetter just in time to get Kallyn Subbert.
In the bottom of the 10th, the Bulldogs managed to escape with bases loaded when senior Christi Larrimore made a tough play at shortstop and flipped to third in time for the force out.
"This was definitely the best play we've had the whole season," Ross said. "We left our hearts on the field."
North Fort Myers 4, Barron Collier 0: Pitching and defense were key elements for the Red Knights as they advanced to the district championship. They showed they can hit, too.
Junior Jackie Owen delivered an RBI single in the third, but the Knights made their biggest surge in the fifth when Mariah Fernandez, Allie Kennedy and Micheala Schlotter each produced RBI singles.
"It's contagious for us," Owen said of the Knights' offense. "If we see one hit then the others start to come."
A 4-0 lead was enough for Owen, who improved to 19-3, and the Knights' typically sound defense.
Kennedy flashed the leather twice, making a running, over-the-shoulder catch in foul territory in the third and another catch running in on a short fly in the sixth.
The pivotal inning came in the top of the fifth with the Red Knights ahead 1-0. The Cougars had runners at the corners with two outs, but the Knights got the third out on a pop up to second baseman Alyssa Dougherty.
That provided momentum for a big fifth inning at the plate.
Fernandez, who got her 100th career hit in Tuesday's win over Lehigh, sparked the offense, going 3-for-3 with two stolen bases.
The Red Knights were aggressive on the bases, moving runners into scoring position. Senior Kayla Ramey also had two steals.
"This was a good all-around effort, defense, offense, pitching, stolen bases, everything," Fernandez said.
The Knights face the Wave, whom they defeated 1-0 and 2-1 during the regular season.
Ida Baker 000 000 000 01 - 1 7 1
Fort Myers 000 000 000 03 - 3 11 0
W - Richardson. L - Kayla Vetter.
2B - Caitlin Holloway (IB), Allie Hare (IB), Kormos (FM), Wiles (FM). HR - Caserio (FM)
Barron Collier 000 000 0 - 0 5 2
North Fort Myers 001 030 x - 4 8 2
W - Jackie Owen. L - Schaus.
Mariner 3, Riverdale 2: Daniel Alimonti's sacrifice fly plated the winning run in the fifth inning, providing Mariner with a one-run victory over Riverdale in the third-place game of the LCAC crossover series.
Alimonti singled home the Tritons' first run in the first inning, but Riverdale took a 2-1 lead after Kyle Waldrop's solo homer in the second and Garrett Greenwell's RBI double in the third.
Angel Laborde singled in the fifth inning and scored on Michael Zunino's RBI triple that tied the game. Alimonti's sac-fly was the game-winner.
Anthony Santo had two hits for the Tritons, who won despite being outhit 8-5. Chris Ford picked up his sixth win of the season with three innings of three-hit relief.
The Tritons take a 21-4 record into the District 5A-15 tournament where they face the winner between East Lee County and Lehigh in the quarterfinals Tuesday night at Terry Park.
Riverdale 011 000 0 - 2 8 1
Mariner 100 020 x - 3 5 0
W - Chris Ford (6-0). L - Gahafer.
2B - Ryan Connelly (R) 2, Garret Greenwell (R). 3B - Michael Zunino (M). HR - Kyle Waldrop (R).
Island Coast 14, Lely 13: The Gators concluded their first varsity season with a wild victory at Lely in eight innings.
Marco LoSauro led the attack, going 5-for-6 with a double an three triples.
The Gators scored five in the eighth to take the lead, but Lely scored four in the bottom half. Lely had the tying run at third when the last batter got hit by a pitch, but was ruled out because he swung and missed for strike three.
The Gators finished their season at 11-13.
Sports editor Jim Linette contributed to this report.