'Hounds' Hearts, Bats Are Guiding The Way
Mon. May 07, 2012 at 1:09 a.m. | By Polk Preps Staff
Auburndale's Ally Baert will try and help the Bloodhounds into the Class 5A state title game on Tuesday. (Photo by MICHAEL WILSON | THE LEDGER )
By SOLANGE REYNER
LAKELAND | With heavy hearts and big bats, Auburndale's softball team has made a deep run into the postseason.
And today, the Bloodhounds, winners of their past five, will play for a chance to advance to the Class 5A state title game, an inconceivable thought two Fridays ago after the team's regional semifinal game was postponed because of a fatal accident involving the little brother of starting pitcher Brooke Hutto.
Auburndale played on, though, the game an afterthought and more of a way to honor Brady Hutto, who was 22 months old at the time.
The Bloodhounds, who will play at 7 p.m. against American Heritage-Plantation at the National Training Center Softball Complex in Clermont, got to this stage by racking up tons of hits against opposing pitchers.
They had 15 against Dunedin in the regional final last Wednesday, 16 against Titusville in the semis and nine in a 6-0 shutout against Merritt Island in the opening round of the playoffs.
"A lot of other games we've had double-digit hits, even the ones we lost," said Auburndale coach Mike Littles, who hasn't used much small ball this year.
"I rely more on our bats. I let the girls swing and take extra bases."
It's risky, sure.
"But it hasn't let me down yet," Littles said.
On the mound, Hutto, a freshman, has been solid. She's 14-2 heading into the game and has gotten out of jams when she's needed to.
Against Dunedin, she faced an average of four batters per inning and got out of a bases loaded situation in the fifth by striking out Chelse Flanagan.
"She's excited that we got this far," Littles said. "This whole situation has been emotionally draining for everyone but Brooke and the girls have been very focused and determined."
Littles has seen good work from freshman pitchers before.
"But not to this extent and with these circumstances. I haven't seen that drive on the mound like I have out of her," he said.
At the plate, Auburndale has gotten big performances from nearly everyone in the lineup. Outfielder Ally Baert has been the most consistent hitter throughout the season, Littles said. She had a two-run double against Titusville and two triples against Dunedin.
Sophomore shortstop Chandler Middlebrook, who struggled at the beginning of the season, had a home run against Titusville, which third baseman Destinee Glover supported with a grand slam in the same inning.
Kelsee Cullop, the Bloodhounds' leadoff hitter, has hit two home runs in regionals. She had one against Merritt Island and another against Dunedin.
"It's coming at the right time and our defense has been stepping up, too. It's been a great lineup one through nine," Littles said.