Belleview falls to Eustis in regional final
Belleview’s Lauren Reimsnyder (11) throws a pitch against Eustis during the FHSAA Class 4A Region 2 final at Eustis High School on Friday. Eustis won the game 5-0. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]
Eustis senior Isabella Andujar took one step towards first base and stopped. She watched as the ball cleared the fence in dead center.
Andujar gingerly dropped the bat and removed her elbow guard before finally trotting around the bases to seal the three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning.
While Belleview fans grumbled about Andujar’s perceived breach of sportsmanship in watching her own shot, the Eustis Panthers’ dugout exploded as they increased their lead over the Rattlers to 5-0 in the Class 4A Region 2 regional final on Friday night at Eustis High School.
While Andujar’s home run was the exclamation point in No. 1-ranked Eustis’ 5-0 win over Belleview, it was far from the deciding factor.
Instead, Eustis’s sophomore ace in the circle, Libby Levendoski, scorched Belleview’s lineup in her complete-game shutout.
Levendoski, whose 240 strikeouts on the season ranks ninth in the state, hurled 16 strikeouts at the Rattlers and played with a curve ball that riddled Belleview all night.
“It was really the heavy dose of curve balls on the outside and she could throw them on the inside,” Belleview head coach Gary Greer said. “We just… we were overpowered and the ball was moving a lot tonight. She was really on her game with her curve.”
Levendoski’s 16 strikeouts was the most she’d thrown in a single game this season.
“She’s only given up 16 runs all year, so I’ll say yes,” Greer laughed when asked if Levendoski was the best pitcher his team had seen all year. “We just didn’t have our bats today.”
While the Rattlers’ bats went silent, Belleview’s senior ace Lauren Reimsnyer and the Rattlers’ field found early success against the Panthers.
Through the opening pair of innings, Remisnyder gave up just one hit and tallied a strikeout, while the defense behind her handled four flyouts and a groundout to see just seven at-bats in the first and second inning.
A solo home run off the bat of Eustis senior Paris Key in the bottom of the third inning finally put Eustis on the board with a 1-0 lead.
The Rattlers and Panthers traded scoreless fourth innings before Eustis scratched across a run via small ball, followed by Andujar’s bomb to blow the game open.
Levendoski struck out five of the last six batters. In striking out the last batter of the evening, Belleview junior Emily Pearce, Levendoski struckout every Belleview batter at least once.
Following the win, Eustis improved to 25-1 on the season and will battle Ridgeview (Orange Park) in the state semifinals on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Belleview Rattlers conclude their season with a record of 21-8.
Belleview graduates six seniors this year, including the first two batters of its lineup and its ace pitcher.
“Position wise, we should be okay,” Greer said of next year’s outlook. “We’re losing about 100 hits of our offense and we’re losing a girl (Reimsnyder) who just won 20 games… But I just see the next game and prepare to win the next game next year. And be ready for it.”