NAPLES — Naples High softball coach Robert Iamurri calls this year’s team a group of fighters. In Saturday’s championship game of the Bill Longshore Memorial Classic, the Golden Eagles showed why.
Naples fell six runs behind Lutz-Steinbrenner early in the Gold bracket final of the 16-team tournament at North Collier Regional Park. Despite errors and missed opportunities, the Golden Eagles nearly made a comeback for their 10th title in the Longshore’s 16 years.
The Eagles had the winning run at the plate in the bottom of the seventh, but Steinbrenner’s defense put an end to Naples charge as the Warriors won 9-6.
“This team has probably come back in more games than any team I’ve ever had,” Iamurri said. “It doesn’t rattle them to be behind. We had innings started. If we just had one more hit or found a hole, we could have opened it back up and scored more runs.”
Trailing 9-5 to start the final inning, Naples (18-7) loaded the bases with two outs. After Courtney Hogrefe’s bunt single scored Haley Pinterich, Taylor Manning came to the plate with the bases still loaded.
Manning hit a hard shot that looked like it would get through the infield. Steinbrenner freshman shortstop Erica Serafini jumped to her left to grab the ball out of the air and record the final out.
“It’s disappointing to battle back and fall short,” said Courtney Kramer, Naples’ only senior. “We made some great plays. Taylor had a great hit. She was robbed there.”
Naples had nine hits in the championship game, led by three from Kelly Olson. In the final five innings, the Eagles left 10 runners on base.
The Golden Eagles might have outplayed Class 7A Steinbrenner except for one inning. The Warriors (16-5) scored seven runs in the second inning thanks to three Naples errors.
Palmetto Ridge’s tournament also ended in disappointment. After a furious comeback to win in Friday’s first round, the Bears couldn’t carry momentum into Saturday. They lost to 11-1 to Steinbrenner in the Gold semifinals and fell 4-1 to Miami-Lourdes in the third-place game.
“It was a long day,” first-year Palmetto Ridge coach Dave Greenfield said. “I’m proud of everybody. We came out and gave it all we got.”
The Bears were held to nine hits combined in the two losses. Brooke Ford pitched two complete games Saturday as Palmetto Ridge was without pitcher Taylor Gunnlaugson.
In the Navy bracket, Class 3A No. 4 Miami-Westminster beat Tampa-Sickles 5-2 in the final. Tampa-Holy Names took third by beating Port Charlotte 12-9.
Community School and Lely wrapped up the Longshore with losses Saturday. Community School lost 6-4 to Charlotte in a consolation game, while Lely fell 10-3 to Fort Myers in the consolation.
Lely finished 1-2, its victory coming Friday against Community School. The Trojans hope the Longshore prepared them for the postseason because they jump into district play Monday.
“We kept fighting the whole time and never gave up as a team,” Lely junior catcher Susana Martinez said. “We feel good going into districts. We just have to keep swinging the bats.”
Community School finished 0-3 in its first Longshore appearance, but the record doesn’t matter. The tournament was part of the Seahawks’ effort to beef up their schedule this year in hopes of making a return trip to the state semifinals.
Despite the losses, the Seahawks showed fight in their final two games. They trailed Lely 20-5 on Friday before scoring six runs in the fifth to force a sixth inning in a 21-11 loss. Community School trailed most the game Saturday before taking a lead in the bottom of the fifth, only to see Charlotte climb back on top in the sixth.
“We were really lucky we got invited to this tournament,” Seahawks senior Olivia Lynch said. “We’re more prepared (for the postseason) than the rest of the teams in our district because we had three games against really tough competition.”
Gulf Coast beat Belle Glade-Glades Day 5-2, then lost 2-0 to Sebastian River to finish the Longshore 1-2.