The expected battle for the District 6A-11 softball title is all set.
The North Fort Myers Red Knights advanced to Thursday's district championship game with a 7-0 victory Tuesday over Ida Baker at Bobbie Dewey Field. Thursday's opponent at 7 p.m. is Venice (20-3), which defeated Port Charlotte 6-3 in the other semifinal.
"We played them twice," in the regular season, said North Fort Myers coach John Keyes. "We beat them 1-0 and they beat us 2-1. It's going to be a good game. We already know that, and we know we have to go play. They're a very, very good team."
North (19-4) put up five runs in the third inning Tuesday, putting Ida Baker (15-8) into a hole from which it could not escape. Much of the damage came without getting a ball out of the infield.
Kaitlyn Kelly opened the Knights' rally with a bunt hit. Summer Ackerson followed with an infield single. An error loaded the bases, and another allowed two runs to score.
Kaylee Morgan then singled home two runs, and Melinda Thirion's double raised North's lead to 5-0.
"Our hitting was good," Keyes said. "The first inning we left two runners on, which hurt a little bit, but the next time we made them make some plays. They didn't make them, then we got a couple of good hits and scored the runs."
Kelly and Thirion each had three hits for North.
"That's really important that the number-eight batter (Thirion) got three hits," Keyes said. "That was huge for us. She's been struggling a little, but boy she came out of that tonight when we needed it."
Sarah Waitekus gave the Red Knights some insurance with a two-run double in the sixth inning.
"The last two runs were really important, just for ourselves. A confidence-builder going into Venice to be able to score like that with two outs," added Keyes
North pitcher Mackenzie Peterson was dominant for most of the game. She didn't give up a hit until the seventh inning. Peterson struck out the side in the first and wound up with seven strikeouts overall.
"She did a great job pitching today," Keyes said. "She got the outs when she needed it. She kept them off base, which is really important with that team. They put so many on base. We were able to do that, and when she put people on she was able to get through it, and the defense played great."
The only time Baker got a runner in scoring position was in the sixth inning, when Peterson gave up back-to-back walks with two outs. A fly ball by the next batter ended the Bulldogs' threat.
"We didn't make the necessary adjustments to bring some runs across," Baker coach Brooke Gates said. "We didn't bounce back and didn't do what we needed to do to win."
Gates, like Keyes, is in her first year as head softball coach at their respective schools.
"It was a good first season, especially a learning experience for me as a head coach," Gates said. "We'll take this, most of our team is back next year - as something to learn from and build on."
Ida Baker 000 000 0 - 0 1 2
North FM 005 002 x - 7 8 1
W - Peterson. L - Ellithorpe.
2B - Thirion (NFM), Waitekus (NFM).
District 5A-12: Cheyenne Krolczyk drove in two runs on two hits and Alli Slaughter contributed two hits Tuesday night as Cape Coral knocked off Golden Gate 7-6 in the semifinal round at Lely.
The win puts the Seahawks (15-8) into the championship game Thursday against Lely, which eliminated Mariner 11-1 Tuesday in the other semifinal matchup. It also assures them a berth in the regional playoffs next week.
Makenzie Buss (14-5) earned the win on the mound while also going 3-for-3 at the plate and scoring two runs. The Seahawks took the lead for good 5-2 in the third inning and held off the Trojans from there.
Ida Baker 6, Charlotte 2: Ida Baker pulled off a big win in the final week of the regular season with a victory at Charlotte Tuesday night.
Brent Digby was a perfect 4-for-4 at the place while Cameron Farmer and Joe Samuelson contributed two hits apiece. The big blow came from Jordan Pinto with a bases clearing double in the fourth inning to highlight a five-run outburst to take control. It also was the only extra-base hit of the game.
Pinto also pitched the final 2 2/3 innings, allowing no runs on three hits with one strikeout in relief of Bryce Van Horn, who went 4 1/3 innings allowing two runs on three hits with three strikeouts to earn the win.
The Bulldogs (7-13) host Aquinas (N.Y.) Thursday night.
Sports editor Jim Linette contributed to this report.