LAND O' LAKES — Despite being on the wrong end of two lopsided outcomes to Sunlake during the regular season, recent events gave Mitchell hope in its Class 7A-10 district final rematch with the Seahawks.
Just two days prior, the Mustangs beat another team that had swept them in two regular-season meetings, as Mitchell dominated Osceola 16-2. The lineup was getting contributions from everywhere, and the feeling was the hot bats could carry over to Thursday.
And there was some extra inspiration.
"We were all playing for Lillia. This was for her," said senior and winning pitcher Ashley Autuori.
Seventeen-year-old Lillia Morris, a junior at Mitchell and close friend of several members of the softball team, was killed in an automobile crash Tuesday night.
Autuori said Morris was very much on her mind Thursday. The pitcher was very composed, relying on a change-up to keep the hard-hitting Seahawks guessing. Sunlake was held to six hits, eight fewer than it had against Autuori in an 11-2 defeat earlier this season.
Sunlake won the more recent meeting via the mercy rule, 10-0, and jumped ahead 1-0 Thursday as Mariah Melendez singled, later coming around on Riley Baxter's sac fly. But the game changed with two outs in the second, when Mitchell managed a run on a Sunlake error.
The Seahawks, normally sturdy on defense, committed three errors and allowed a couple of catchable flyballs to drop in for base hits. One such play started the Mustangs' four-run third inning, as Alex Hare flared a single to left, followed by Autuori's line drive double. Mitchell (19-8) went ahead 3-1 on an RBI singe by freshman Katie Bright, a second run scoring on an error, and later sophomore Kaylee Barber ripped a two-run double.
Taylor Platt made it 7-1 with a two-run single in the fifth after Sunlake had walked the bases loaded.
Afterwards on Twitter, Platt said: "I dedicated this game to Lillia. Thank you to my teammates for picking me up. This win means a lot to me."
Lexi Clark, the No. 6 hitter, went 2-for-3 with a walk and scored twice. Barber and Platt are the seventh and eighth hitters in the Mitchell order.
"We're getting hits from all throughout the lineup, and that's what you need. And we played great defense," said coach Scott Bisbe.
Alex Hare was stellar as usual at shortstop, skying to make a snag in the bottom of the second, and turning a tough force play to stop a sixth-inning threat. Rightfielder Rachel Geiger made a nice running grab to start the inning, and as Sunlake was threatening in the seventh centerfielder Bayley Williams caught Kendra Falby's drive at the wall.
Autuori, now 14-5 on the season, also went 3-for-4 at the plate with two doubles.
"Ashley pitched beautiful tonight," Bisbe said.
Sunlake used three pitchers as Mitchell compiled 11 hits. Falby went 2-for-4 with an RBI single to lead the Seahawks, who have a 23-2 record but must start the playoffs at Braden River, which eliminated them 11-3 in last year's first round.
The Mustangs will host Lennard next Wednesday. Mitchell is 7-1 since the 10-0 loss to Sunlake, scoring at least eight runs each time, and the lone defeat coming 1-0 to River Ridge.