Gulliver coaches scouted West Florida’s Korina Rosario before arriving at the state finals.
But all the studying couldn’t stop the future Florida State University pitcher from bringing the Raiders’ softball dynasty to screeching halt Wednesday morning.
Rosario, a left-handed senior, struck out 12 and limited Gulliver to one hit as West Florida beat the Raiders 3-0 in the Class 4A state semifinals at Historic Dodgertown.
The defeat snapped Gulliver’s 20-game regional and state playoff winning streak, ending its four-year state championship run. Gulliver (23-7) was attempting to match Bartow’s state-record streak of five consecutive state titles from 2002-’06.
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“We’ve had a great run,” Gulliver coach Mark Schusterman said. “[Rosario] is a great player and really stepped up today. She executed her game plan better than we executed ours.”
Rosario entered the tournament with 308 strikeouts, 18 shutouts and only four earned runs allowed this season for the Jaguars (27-1). She kept Gulliver off balance throughout the game.
Junior Sofia DeSolo came up with Gulliver’s only hit – a leadoff double in the fifth with the Raiders trailing 3-0. Rosario hit Ana Hilton with a pitch on the ensuing at-bat, giving Gulliver its best scoring threat of the game.
But Rosario recovered quickly, striking out Jessica Pagliery and retiring Briana Bahadue and Crystal Garcia on pop-ups.
“Being a lefty made it tough because we hadn’t faced many lefties this season,” junior catcher Tori Rios said. “She was hitting all her spots, and we were swinging over the ball and under the ball and letting her rise ball get to us.”
Gulliver’s own ace, senior Gabbee Draney, wasn’t as sharp as her counterpart in the early innings.
With runners on second and third and one out in the bottom of the first inning, West Florida junior Kristin Gunter lined a ball up the middle that scored Rosario with the game’s first run. Ali Cutaio bunted in the ensuing at-bat to give West Florida a 2-0 lead.
The Jaguars added another run in the second inning on a single by Nachelle Watson.
“We were trying to calm down and as a leader trying to do the same for all of us,” Draney said. “We knew that if they scored early, we’d be in trouble.”
Draney is one of only three seniors on Gulliver’s roster.
“We’re still a pretty young team and that’s a good thing,” Schusterman said. “But I think the youth showed out there a bit today against [Rosario]. But it’s a tribute to our seniors that we were able to get through our tough schedule and get this team back to state.”
GUL 000 000 0 – 0 1 0
PPC 210 000 x – 3 6 1
WP: Korina Rosario (27-1). LP: Gabbee Draney (18-5).