CLERMONT — MacKenzie Thompson stole a bunt single to start Evangelical Christian’s night at the plate, but The First Academy senior Hannah Harper stole the show with a dominant outing in the circle in Tuesday’s FHSAA Class 2A State Semifinal.
Harper, a West Florida signee, allowed just two hits and struck out 13 Sentinels as the Royals shutout ECS, 3-0, at Legends Way Ballfields.
“She did a super job,” said ECS head coach Johnny Manetta. “Hats off to her.”
Coming in, Manetta thought Harper could give his lefty-heavy lineup trouble. The memory of a two-hit shutout from Sickles left-hander Robyn Herron at the Longshore Memorial Tournament in Naples last month didn’t help.
“She gave us fits and we lost to them 1-0,” he said. “I had an idea that we may struggle. We’ve struggled all year against lefties. It’s something we can improve on next year. I love having all the left-handed bats in the lineup, but sometimes you just run into the wrong opponent.”
ECS sophomore Zoe Yzaguirre dueled with Harper for two scoreless frames. In The First Academy’s third, the Royals got a one-out double from Harper, who advanced to third on Morgan Duling’s base hit. Four pitches later, Camille Mackendon hit a triple just inches inside the third-base bag that rolled into left, scoring Harper and Duling. Molly Sheridan, the Royals’ cleanup batter, bunted into a suicide squeeze that brought Mackendon in.
The First Academy’s three spot in the third was all the run support Harper needed.
“Just one bad inning,” Manetta said. “Couple pitches that maybe weren’t where they were supposed to [be]. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.”
Yzaguirre bounced back with a 1-2-3 fourth, then she worked around a leadoff single in the fifth. The right-hander retired 12 of the final 14 batters she saw to give the Sentinels offense a chance to come back.
“She’s another underclassman. Just a sophomore. We’re going to bring her back for two more years and she’s just going to get better and better,” said Manetta, who doubles as Yzaguirre’s travel ball coach. “Her velocity has gone up 2-3 mph every year, we expect another jump this summer. She’s just a warrior out there.”
Yzaguirre finished with 11 strikeouts, her third consecutive game in double figures. Even after allowing three earned runs in the state semifinal, the sophomore posted a career-low ERA at 1.06 to lead ECS. At the plate, Thompson added a second bunt single in the sixth to finish her sophomore campaign with a career-high 49