FORT BRADEN — The Naples Rockets' unexpected Friday night off gave the 9-10 softball team's coaches the chance to scout Saturday's opponent, Martin County North. That scouting excursion was a rousing success.
Lindsey Lindheim and Jordan Nugent combined for a four-inning no-hitter as the Rockets clinched a state tournament semifinal berth with a 10-0 win over Martin County at Fort Braden Community Park.
The Rockets and today's opponent, Plant City, already know they've made the semis. Their 1 p.m. game will decide who enters the semis as the top seed from their pool. The semifinal winners will face each other Tuesday at 6 p.m. for the state title.
"The first time we got to see (Martin County) was (Friday) night," Rockets coach Jon Strohmeyer said. "I thought if we hit the ball, we'd be fine. We didn't have to do anything fancy."
Naples' steady hitting turned into a six-run third inning that iced the game. The scoring started when catcher Haleigh Ross drove home Caroline Strohmeyer. Then a short Taylor Manning single scored Lindheim and a short Nugent single brought home Manning. Megan Langham then scored on a passed ball, a Marina Hill fly ball mishandled by the outfield brought Nugent home and Hill crossed home plate when Kirby Joyner reached first on an error.
The Rockets added three runs in the fourth ending the game with Nugent's two-run single.
Meanwhile, Lindheim and Nugent stymied the Martin County batters. Lindheim pitched the first inning, striking out two of the five batters she faced, then gave way to Nugent's three dominating innings. Nugent faced 10 batters, striking out seven and walking one.
"Within the first inning I pitch, I know whether I'm on or whether it's going to be tough," Nugent said. "I knew that if I relaxed and threw strikes, I'd be fine."
Strohmeyer said her calmness was the key to her performance.
"Jordan can throw the daggone ball 55 miles an hour," he said. "I was telling her to throw the ball comfortably and get them in there for strikes. When I saw her throwing at that comfort level, she could do what she had to do without throwing at 115 percent."
Ross went 3-for-3 with a double against Martin County. Manning and Nugent each collected two hits, with Manning cracking a double.