Dowdell, Shenefield combine for five hits as Lady Leopards solve Coyotes, 8-7


HHS seeks first

region title since

2001 at Santa Fe


Hernando High collected five of its seven hits between Ali Shenefield and Taliyah Dowdell Wednesday night in East Pasco County to eliminate host Cypress Creek Middle/High School, 8-7.

In the tense Class 5A, Region II semifinal, the Leopards (26-3) improved to 5-1 lifetime against the second-year Coyotes (15-9).

With the triumph, the Purple and Gold advance to its third straight regional final in Alachua County Friday traveling to face the Santa Fe Raiders (22-6).

The Leopards are seeking its first regional title since Hall of Famer Ernie Chatman coached at third base in 2001.

Since hammering Crystal River at Tom Varn Park on May 5, 2001, 14-4, the Leopards have dropped four consecutive regional finals – all under 14th-year mentor Kevin Bittinger (2013, 14, 17, 18).

Leopard standouts

HHS junior catcher Taliyah Dowdell led the visitors going 3-for-3, besides getting by a pitch.

Taliyah Dowdell

The 2018 All-County pick entered the game hitting .442.

Senior pitcher Ali Shenefield, who went 4-for-5 against Cypress Creek during the 5A-7 title game in Brooksville, helped her self finishing 2-for-3, besides getting hit by a pitch.

Shenefield, who arrived as the county’s No. 2 hitter at .482, did a yeoman’s job of keeping the Coyotes at bay.

In the circle, Shenefield yielded a season-high nine hits among the 34 batters she faced.

Ali Shenefield

Her 27th start of the season resulted in her 25th complete game.

The 5-foot-3 right-hander issued two walks and fanned 11 batters to raise her single season strikeout total to 356 against 25 free passes.

Shenefield, who has yielded only 30 runs all season, permitted seven runs (six earned) against the relentless Coyotes’ attack.

The Coyotes seem to have Shenefield’s number, plating 63 percent of the total runs off her this season.

For the hosts – who played before a packed house – sophomore Emma Coon and senior Jasmine Jackson, each rapped two hits.

While freshman Miranda Schwartz slugged a pair of doubles, Jackson belted a triple and a rare home off Shenefield.

The round-tripper was just the second allowed this season.

Defensively, the Coyotes committed two errors while Hernando was charged with a game-high three miscues.

Recapping the scoring

Hernando broke the game’s seal with a pair of unearned runs off senior starter Avery Lee.

The soft-tossing Lee opened the game plunking Shenefield with a pitch.

Courtesy runner Lauren Sullivan was immediately inserted as a courtesy runner.

Dowdell followed with a single.

Both runners advanced to second and third on a passed ball.

Though Sullivan was in a pickle between third and home plate, an ensuing error on an overthrow permitted her to score, 1-0.

Freshman shortstop Solaris Genberg grounded into a fielder’s choice plating Dowdell, 2-0.

Hernando added a run in the third.

With one out, Dowdell was hit by a pitch before Genberg reached on an error by the first baseman.

Senior DH Madyson Lamp walked to load the sacks.

Townsend, who was pitch by a pitch three times in the 5A-7 final, was hit again forcing home Dowdell, 3-0.

CCHS tallied a pair of runs in the bottom of the third, 3-2.

Contested call

A contested call highlighted a four-run HHS fourth-inning uprising.

With two outs and bases empty, Shenefield and Dowdell singled.

Genberg stroked an RBI single scoring courtesy runner Sullivan, 4-2.

Lauren Sullivan

Lamp coaxed a walk to again fill the sacks.

In perhaps the play of the game, Townsend hit a liner down the third base line. The shot cleared the bases, 7-2.

But according to CCHS mentor Mike Peterson, the third base umpire Scott Mattos and the home plate umpire Tony Qualitiere made two different calls.

Qualitiere indicated fair ball; Mattos indicated foul ball.

Had Mattos not been overheard saying foul ball three times, Peterson said he would not have argued the home plate umpire’s call.

Qualitiere insisted that no matter what Mattos called, only his call mattered as umpire-in-chief.

But that’s where an argument ensued.

According to the National Federation of State High School rule book, Peterson insisted, that when two game officials’ call differ – a dead ball should have resulted.

He backed up his claim in writing (2-16-ie- 5-1; 1h; 5.1.1a, b and c) “A batted ball is foul and dead whenever an un umpire “inadvertently announces ‘Foul’ on a ball that touches the ground,” whether in fair or foul territory. That call can not be changed.”

Meaning there should not have been any advancement, thus HHS shouldn’t have scored any of those three runs.

Peterson wanted to protest the game at that point indicating that Qualitiere, in essence, dropped the ball on his call.

But since protests are not permitted in the FHSAA, the runs counted.

Those three runs loomed much larger as the game progressed.

Cypress Creek tallied once in the bottom of the fourth to close the gap to 7-3.

The Leopards added its eighth run in the fifth.

With two outs, freshman Hannah Lynch coaxed a walk. Shenefield reached on a walk.

Dowdell lined an RBI single to right plating Lynch, 8-3.

Hannah Lynch

That run batted served as her county-leading 43rd of the season.

In 1991, Jill Penderghest set the single season HHS school record with 44 RBI.

The Coyotes, however, weren’t done.

The Wesley Chapel crew tallied once in the fifth and three times in the seventh before running out of steam, 8-7.

The rule book controversy spilled into the post-game comments.

“I’ve never had any problems or issues with any of those umpires working the game,” shared Peterson, “But Tony didn’t know the rule. When I showed it to him, he just rolled his eyes.

“…I don’t want to take away anything from the Hernando celebration, but that call played a big role in that game. It should‘ve been ruled a dead ball.”

“Fair or foul, I couldn’t tell you,” explained Bittinger. “I wasn’t focused on listening to the third base umpire. When the ball was hit, I was focused on trying to get some runs home. I never heard Mattos say anything. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t say it.”

Coaches’ corner

On what Bittinger took away from the effort.

Kevin Bittinger

“We didn’t get any style points, but it was a win,” stressed Bittinger. “If you’re gonna be successful, you’ve got to overcome your flaws. We got exposed. A lot of it has to do with pressure.”

“There’s a certain finality with high school ball; that’s where the pressure comes in. Travel ball has helped prepare these young ladies for the game, but it hasn’t made these kids mentally tough because there’s always another travel ball tournament next week. Well, not in high school. If we don’t win, we’re done for nine months.”

On prepping for Santa Fe, “Adversity is going to happen,” emphasized Bittinger. “We have to have players who can deal with adversity. Give Cypress Creek credit. They’ve hit Ali the best. We learned we’ve got to do a better job of execution. Right now, it’s about surviving and moving on.”

From the home dugout, Peterson saw the tears welling up.

“I told the girls to keep their chins up. No one expected us to come this far,” he said. ‘Our plan was to put the ball in play and we did. We didn’t play our best, but we still had a chance to win.”

2019 “Road to the Show”

Class 5A, District 7 Girls Softball Tournament at Brooksville’s Tom Varn Park



Hernando – bye

NCT 11, Hudson-Fivay 0 (4.5 Innings)



Hudson 15, Central 0 (3.5)

Cypress Creek 16, Gulf 1 (4.5)



Cypress Creek 8, NCT 3

Hernando 9, Hudson 1



Cypress Creek 7, Hernando 5


Class 5A, Region II Quarterfinals

@ Wesley Chapel

Cypress Creek 6, Pierson-Taylor 4

@ Orlando

Hernando 4, Bishop Moore Catholic 0


Class 5A, Region II Semifinals

@ Eustis

Alachua-Santa Fe 5, Eustis 3


Class 5A, Region II Semifinals

@ Wesley Chapel

Hernando 8, Cypress Creek 7


Class 5A, Region II Semifinals

@ Alachua

Hernando vs. Santa Fe, 7 p.m.

Hernando 8,

Cypress Creek 7














































HER – Shenefield and Dowdell.

CC – Lee and Peterson.

W – Shenefield (24-3). .L – Lee (12-7). .

2B – CC: Schwartz (2). HER: Townsend.

3B – CC: Jackson.

HR – CC: Jackson.

Records – Cypress Creek (1-1 tourney, 15-9 overall), Hernando (2-0 tourney, 26-3 overall)..



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