By:  J. Daniel Pearson for Positively Osceola

For four innings, Miranda Watford’s young Osceola Kowboys softball team gave second-seeded Palm Beach Gardens all they wanted. At the end of the day, it was too much Sydney Shaffer as the Gators ended Osceola’s season with a 6-2 win in a Class 7A, Region 3 quarterfinal game on Thursday night.

Shaffer, the PBG ace, pitched a complete game three-hitter.  She struck out 12 and walked just one in improving her season record to 11-1.  The Gators moved to 22-4 and will now host Centennial – a 15-0 winner over Harmony – in a regional semifinal.  St. Cloud, who also saw its season come to the end Thursday, dropped a close 2-0 lead to number one seed Wellington in another Region 3 quarterfinal.

Although Osceola failed to get a hit in the first three innings, they only trailed 1-0 as PBG only manage a single run on RBI double by Madison Quinn – despite putting five other runners in scoring position in the first three frames.   

lady kowboys
Lady Kowboys
Lady Kowboys

The Gators would take advantage of a couple of free passes and a misplayed ball to build a 3-0 lead in the fourth.  Finola Evans and Madison Quinn opened the stanza with back-to-back walks and moved up one base on a ground out.  Byrnn Dion-catasus brought home a run with a ground out and when Osceola failed to coral a deep fly ball by Regan Towns it fell for an error to score Quinn.

Osceola would battle back in the bottom of the fourth.  Faith Ferrer singled and Samantha Edward followed with a long home run to right-center as the pair of freshmen pulled Osceola to within one at 3-2.

Kowboys starter Alexis Miranda, who battled out of trouble all night long, needed to make one more play to keep the game within reach in the sixth.  With two out and runners on second and third, Miranda saved a couple of runs when she smothered Towns’ hard-hit ball up the middle and threw her out at first.  But Victoria Scott followed with another hard line drive deflected off of Miranda’s glove and ricocheted into centerfield for a two-run single to up the lead to 5-2.

Osceola could not muster any offense for the rest of the game, being limited to a Tenley Dawson single in the sixth.  The Gators tacked on a run in the seventh and Shaffer retired Osceola in order in the bottom of the seventh to end the game.

“She’s a good pitcher, but I think our inexperience helped her a lot,” Watford said.  “We were really impatient at the plate, particularly in the first half of the game and were swinging from heels.”

The veteran coach said she was proud of her young team, which finished 14-11 and won a district title but would miss the leadership of Miranda – one of only two seniors in the starting lineup that included six freshmen and a sophomore.  “She has been the heart and soul of our team for the last couple of years and provided the leadership this young team needed, ” Watford said.  “I’m really proud of her and our entire team.  They are a really young group that battled hard every game.  We have a lot of talented young players coming back and another good group coming in.”

In other action, the Bulldogs allowed just five hits, but Wellington scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings to take a 2-0 win.  A district champion, Wellington (20-3) is the top seed in the region. St. Cloud finishes the year at 13-15.

OBC Champion Harmony (11-11) was no match for third-seeded Centennial (20-7).The Longhorns were tied 0-0 through two innings but gave up 11 runs in the third and the game-was called by the 15-run rule in the fourth.  Hailey Brereton and Jaelyn Cooke combined to go 6 for 9 with two home runs and nine RBI for Centennial; with Brereton also throwing a no-hitter and striking out all 12 batters she faced.