SEBRING - Chelsea Bassett threw a complete game and Sebring's bats stayed hot as the Class 5A Blue Streaks defeated Class 4A Avon Park by a score of 7-2 on Thursday night.
"The first game between us got rained out, so we didn't really know what to expect," Streaks coach Joe Sinness said. "And tonight going in it was a close game early, but our girls stayed focused and took care of business. Chelsea is our workhorse and she really battled out there."
The Red Devils (4-5, 0-3) scored first, taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning thanks to Niesha Brown's RBI single. But Sebring (9-8) countered in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single from Morgan Andrews to tie the game.
From there, Avon Park's offense stalled, and the Devils wouldn't score again until the fourth inning.
"We just left too many people on base," Devils coach Brittany Spencer said. "We hung there, but we need some timely hitting. But we're just going to take it one game at a time."
After taking the lead in the bottom of the second inning on Kalea Tanner's RBI ground out, Sebring tallied two more runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Kara Faircloth led off with a single. Amber Hicks tried to advance Faircloth to second base with a sacrifice bunt, but Alyssa Rivera's throw to first base was wide, and Faircloth scampered over to third to give the Streaks runners on the corners.
Hicks promptly stole second, causing some confusion among the Devils infielders, and Faircloth sprinted home. Harley Shafer's wild pitch allowed Hicks to come home and give Sebring a 4-2 lead.
Sebring added one run in the fifth and two more in the sixth to cap its scoring. Tanner brought home two runs, each by a ground out, and Mattie Coe blasted a double to plate the Streaks final run.
Even with the decisive victory, Sinness said he was impressed with the sudden improvement of Avon Park's softball program.
"For the last four or five years, they've been down," he said. "But the Devils are much improved. I can tell that they've gotten better. They're coaching has gotten better and they're playing has gotten better."
But Sinness still thinks there's room for improvement.
"Against Avon Park, I always tell the team everyone is going to get in," Sinness said. "And we were able to get a lot of girls some playing time tonight. But offensively, we need to improve our patience at the plate. And defensively, we still need to make the plays - there were a few times tonight where I saw players get content with making the catch and not follow through with the throw into the infield."
Both the Devils and Streaks are close to wrapping up the regular season. Sebring has a critical game coming up against 5A-11 foe Lemon Bay (7-9, 2-3), while Avon Park is still searching for its first win in 4A-9 play. The Devils will get their shot Tuesday night, when they host Mulberry (6-9, 3-4).
"We're trying to secure a No. 3 seed," Sinness said. "We've proven we can play with teams in our district, not it's time to just go out there and deliver on the field."
Sebring travels to Lemon Bay Thursday to take on the Manta Rays. The game starts at 7:30 p.m.