By: J. Daniel Pearson

Six walks along with some clutch two-out hitting by the opponent spelled defeat for Harmony’s softball team on Thursday night as the Longhorns saw their season come to an end with a 12-4 defeat to Jupiter in a Class 7A, Region 3 quarterfinal game.

Harmony, which entered regionals as the District 10 champion, finished the year with a 10-8 record.  Jupiter, who came into the game as the second seed in the regional, went to 18-5 and advances to next week’s regional semifinal.

“I just told this group how much I loved them,” an emotional Harmony coach Kristi Mindrup said after the game.  “This was a special team and a really special group of seniors.  They lost most of their freshman year to Covid, struggled in their second year and then had a really good junior year where they won 70% of their games.  Although our record wasn’t quite as good this year, we played a difficult schedule and we were in practically every game where hit here or there could have turned some of those games around.  This team went out as district champions and they played hard every game and I am so very proud of what they accomplished.”

The game started off as a pitcher’s duel, as Harmony’s pitcher Lindsey Green retired the first six hitters she faced – striking out four.  The Longhorns had a chance to break on top in their half of the second when they loaded the bases with just one out.  But Jupiter pitcher Amanda Lieberman retired Shyanne Dumford on a pop out to short and then got Angelica Castro out on a comebacker to the mound to end the threat.

Jupiter would score all the runs they would need in the third.  

The Warriors loaded the bases with one out on a couple of walks and a single.  Freshman Delaney Drinkwater would bring in the first run with an RBI single with a second run scoring on a throwing error from the outfield.  One out later, Sasha Seidel – another freshman – would deliver a two-run single to make it 4-0.

Harmony had some freshman heroics of their own in the bottom of the third, as first-year player Emerson Asian hit an RBI double and freshman Haley Diaz’s sacrifice fly cut the deficit in half at 4-2.

Still, walks and Jupiter’s two-out hitting would prove costly in the fifth.  Sophia White drew a one-out walk and after Drinkwater struck out,  Lieberman would single,  both runners moved up on a wild pitch and Seidel drove in her third and fourth runs of the game with her second hit of the night.

Jupiter would put the game away in the sixth.  After Harmon got two quick outs in the inning, the Warriors would see seven straight players reach base safely – scoring six runs and building a 12-2 lead.  For the game, all six Jupiter batters that reached base via walk ended up scoring and the Warriors also went seven for 13 with seven RBIs with two outs.

Harmony was able to avoid the game ending early by the 10-run rule by scratching out a run in the bottom of the sixth.  In the seventh seniors Ireland Sibbett and Amanda Whaley opened the inning with back-to-back singles, with Sibbett eventually scoring for the 12-4 final.

“We scratched and clawed for a run in the sixth to keep the game going,” Mindrup said.  “I was so happy that two of our seniors – who played such a key role for us in their careers — were able to not only get at-bats in the seventh, but were also able to end their high school career with hits.”

In addition to Seidel’s four runs batted in, Lieberman and Samantha Basen had two RBI each.  Lieberman finished with a complete game, allowing seven hits and striking out five.  “She wasn’t the most dominating pitcher we faced this year,” Whalen said.  “But she put a lot of spin on her pitches, worked the corners and had a really good change-up.  She got a lot of easy pop-ups off that change.”

In other regional action, Centennial’s Hailey Brereton struck out 16 and pitched a no-hitter in a 1-0 win over St. Cloud.  The fifth seed and an at-large invitee in Region 3, the Bulldogs saw its season end at 15-11.