ST. AUGUSTINE – After enduring the surprise death of their coach just days before the softball season opener, the Ridgeview High softball team had a bit of regrouping to do on their way to an …
ST. AUGUSTINE – After enduring the surprise death of their coach just days before the softball season opener, the Ridgeview High softball team had a bit of regrouping to do on their way to an “eerily” weird 6-0 win over Clay High in the district 4-6A championship game played Friday at Pedro Menendez High School.
“He was definitely here and is laughing at us with a Michelob in his hand,” said Ridgeview coach Bryson Barker, after his Panthers benefited from an error-filled night by the Blue Devils. “We went through a lot as a team this year and there was a turning point in the middle of the season that we decided that we were going to use (Coach Roger) Harvey’s death as a motivation. He would have loved this. We were tight in the beginning of the season with a lot of emotion, but then decided he played loose and had fun and that’s where we needed to be.”
The title, Ridgeview’s first ever championship trophy in softball, came by way of a first inning of mishaps by Clay; three field errors, that led to a quick 3-0 lead for the Panthers, and a seventh inning of mishaps that added the final three runs.
“This means a lot for me; knowing that coach Harvey was here,” said Kelsey Solomon, a senior player for Harvey last year and now an assistant coach with Barker. “I know he’s watching and I’m just honored to be part of it.”
Clay pitcher Morgan Crutcher, who orchestrated two regular season wins over Ridgeview, was strong on the mound for the Blue Devils with a first batter strikeout almost setting a tone of control for Clay. A walk to Hannah Foster led to a crazy-bounce single to Chloe Chambers that bounced off Clay second baseman Ali Sarman facemask to set up a run-scoring hit to Raven Little past third base. A single to right field from Ashlyn Halford got a late throw to home to score run two and a drop of a flyball from Sarman put the third run in.
“Every bit of tonight was Roger Harvey doing his job,” said Clay coach Matt Lewis. “We give them six errors; what would you expect? They came out using that momentum. Morgan threw solid.”
Lewis noted that the Panthers’ come-from-behind 3-2 semifinal win over defending disttrict and region champion Ponte Vedra two nights prior; off a three run homer from Alyssa Adams in the seventh inning, was part of the Harvey mystique.
“They are playing high on Harvey and I don’t blame them,” said Lewis, a long-time coach with Harvey at Clay. “Tonight is fixable.”
Bryson concurred that Harvey played a part in the semifinal win.
“That walkoff to put us here, he was definitely a part of that,” said Barker. “I felt for sure he had something to do with that.”
Clay advanced to the final with a 10-1 win over Orange Park who squeezed out a round one 4-1 win over Menenedez to advance to that semifinal.
After the first inning bonanza for Ridgeview, both teams settled down from the opening blitz to control the basepaths with Ridgeview pitcher Brittany Michaels and Crutcher fireballing batters back to the dugouts.
As the night moved into the sixth inning with the score still 3-0, an anticipated final surge by Clay seemed imminent, but Michael got a strikeout and two flyballs in the bottom of the sixth to set up a second three-run inning for Ridgeview.
A single from Sarah Anderson followed by a misplayed grounder to Jorge-Silva in right field that rolled to the fence put one run in. A chopper over third base from Foster put a second run in with Foster surviving a weird rundown situation between first and second base on a long flyball from Adams that left coaches “discussing” the umpire call for nearly 20 minutes. Two more infield errors got run six in with third baseman Haley Stone holding on to a bobbling flyball to end the surge.
Michaels ended the game with flyballs.
Both teams advanced into the region 1-6A playoffs with Ridgeview (14-6) hosting Ed White (6-12) while Clay (14-11) travels to Paxon (14-11) on Wed., May 2.