Cape Coral's run through the Little League Junior Softball Southeast Region Tournament came to an abrupt end Wednesday night at Fleishman Park.
Cape endured a 14-inning marathon against Tampa West before losing 4-1 in the championship game. Tampa West will represent Florida at the Junior League Softball World Series starting Aug. 15 in Kirkland, Wash.
Tampa scratched for a run in the third inning with the run crossing the plate as a batter beat a throw at first base on a close play. It stayed 1-0 until Cape tied it up in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Maddy Peres singled to left and was sacrificed to second. Katie Grubb then lined a double over the left fielder's head to drive Peres home with the tying run to send it to extra innings.
After banging out 38 base hits and outscoring three pool play opponents 42-7 to advance to the championship round, Cape experienced the polar opposite in Tuesday's semifinal, a 2-1 victory on just three hits, and the championship game loss with just seven hits over 14 innings.
Peres pitched the first nine innings, giving way to Jessica Nuccio, who pitched until getting into a jam in the 13th inning. With only one inning remaining by rule, Peres returned to get two outs to end the threat.
Nuccio started the 14th and Tampa's first two hitters reached on singles. A ringing double to center field drove in two runs and the final run scored later on a Cape error.
Nuccio opened Cape's final at-bat with a single, her second hit of the game. A fielder's choice and a groundout was followed by a game-ending strikeout.
Tuesday's scoreless semifinal game was interrupted by a delay of about an hour for lightning, but Cape came through in the fifth with the game's first runs.
With the bases loaded and no one out, Amber Plaza hit a dribbler toward first base. The throw to the plate was high and went to the backstop as Peres scored the first run. A subsequent throw to another base allowed Mallory Gerrero to score what proved to be the game-winning run.
That's all Cape needed as Peres pitched four hitless innings, striking out five, and Nuccio finished it off, striking out two and surrendering Virginia's lone hit, a clean single in the sixth inning.
Virginia made it interesting by scoring an unearned run in the sixth around the one hit, one Cape fielding error and a wild pitch.
Once Cape, which managed just three hits, got runners in scoring position, manager John Manetta ordered his girls to lay down some bunts to force the Virginia defense to make some plays.
Cape earned its way to the semifinal round by cruising to three wins by eight or more runs in pool play.
Cape opened pool play with a 10-2 win over North Carolina with Peres recording nine strikeouts. Morgan Cole, Nuccio, Sara Waitekus and Plaza contributed two hits apiece toward the team's 12-hit total. Alyssa Langdale and Gerrero drove in two runs apiece.
They routed South Carolina 21-4 with Nuccio earning the win on the mound. Nuccio had four hits, including two doubles, and six RBI to lead the attack. Cole added three hits with two RBI while Katelyn Kelly, Peres and Heather Gillions adding two hits apiece.
Plaza drove in three runs and Langdale two, both with two hits, and Nuccio won on the mound as Cape dumped Georgia 11-1 to lock up Pool B undefeated.
Florida 010 000 000 000 03 - 4 10
Cape 000 000 100 000 00 - 1 7
L - Jessica Nuccio.
Virginia 000 001 0 - 1 1
Cape Coral 000 020 x - 2 3
W - Maddy Peres.
Pool B Linescores
Cape Coral 003 060 1 - 10 12
N.Carolina 200 000 0 - 2 1
2B - Alyssa Langdale (CC), Amber Plaza (CC).
Cape Coral 082 021 8 - 21 17
S.Carolina 300 010 0 - 4 7
W - Jessica Nuccio.
2B - Gammon (SC), Jessica Nuccio (CC) 2. 3B - Heather Gillions (CC).
Georgia001 00 - 1 0
Cape Coral034 04 - 11 9
2B - Jessica Nuccio (CC).