OAKLEAF - Clay won the first of the week’s series of region quarterfinal softball games with a 2-0 5 p.m. win over Bishop Kenny about two hours before Ridgeview blew out Yulee 10-0 and Middleburg upended Deltona 4-2 while Oakleaf had to wait a day (rain) before walking off a 3-2 win over Spruce Creek to keep four Clay County teams in the hunt for a state title.
Keystone Heights (14-9) lost 4-1 in their district tournament to Baldwin (20-6), but did not get a region bid.
St. Johns Country Day School lost 13-0 in region 1-2A to North Florida Christian to end their season at 9-6. The Spartans lost 10-0 in their three-team district 2-2A championship to Trinity Christian Academy (16-6).
Region 1-7A: Oakleaf (17-9) at Spruce Creek (23-0), Tues., May 11 5pm. Opposite game: Oviedo (19-5) at Lake Brantley (19-7)
Region 1-5A: Matanzas (12-9) at Middleburg (14-14), Tues., May 11, 7 p.m. Opposite game: Gulf Breeze (14-11) at Pace (18-6)
Region 1-4A: Clay (19-9) at Ridgeview (24-3), Tues., May 11 7 pm. Opposite game: Baker County (17-7) at Paxon (17-7)
The Clay (19-9) and Ridgeview (24-3) wins set up yet another clash between the two area powerhouses with the Panthers getting the district 4-4A title over Clay two weeks ago with a 3-1 seven inning thriller.
“I’ll say it everytime, whenever we play Clay, coach Matt Lewis has them ready to go to battle,” said Ridgeview coach Casey Thompson. “It will be a great game again.”
On March 19, Ridgeview won 7-2.
On March 24, Clay won a 3-2 contest.
On April 13, Ridgeview won 2-1.
On April 29, in the district championship Ridgeview won 3-1.
“We know them, they know us,” said Clay coach Matt Lewis. “It’s making the plays and scoring more runs then them. Pretty simple.”
Against Yulee (8-20), Ridgeview scored four runs in the opening at-bat to bolster shut out pitching (5Ks) from senior Brittany Michael. Mary Girgis RBI singled Michael in after a walk with Brooke Michael grounding in Girgis after a wild pitch put her on third. Kira Torrence powered an RBI double for a 3-0 before scoring herself on an infield error.
Ridgeview’s bats loaded up the scoring with doubles to Girgis (2RBI), Ashlyn Halford (3RBI) and a triple from Brooke Michael (3RBI) as the game progressed.
Clay also got shutout pitching from their ace, freshman Gabrielle Ellis with two runs in the third inning the scoring for the contest.
Ellis and teammate Kierstyn Mann both scored for Clay after a walk and a bunt got them on base before Sydney Davis singled in both baserunners.
Clay had a scoring opportunity in the fourth, but Gabby Wiseman was tagged at home off a Mann grounder after two walks and an error loaded the base.
A double by Davis in the fifth got no runs off a nifty double play by the Bishop Kenny defense.
Clay answered with their own double play in the sixth with bases loaded.
“They tried a squeeze play down the third base line, but Ema Martin (Clay third baseman) snagged it, turned and threw to Kylee Stacy (Clay shortstop) at second,” said Lewis.
For Oakleaf High coach Tony Voiro, the Lady Knights were on a path to a solid win against Spruce Creek with 2-0 lead holding into the fourth inning before Spruce Creek (13-10) tagged pitcher Madi McDaniels with a two-run homer to shift the momentum back to the Hawks.
“I’ve been struggling a bit at the end of the season, but I tried to keep myself together,” said McDaniel. “I get a lot of anxiety and knew I couldn’t freak out on the mound. My defense kept me positive.”
Voiro credited McDaniels with keeping her composure after the homer as she continued to keep the basepaths clear with the aid of stellar defensive plays from her infielders Jaidyn Collins (3B) and Mariyah Sanchez (SS) and a diving catch in left field from Ciara Gibson.
“Madi just puts everything she had into the game and sometimes forgets to breathe,” said Voiro, who now must travel to University High to face the top team in Florida (23-0) in his region semifinal.”I knew she would come through. She’s fast and she can hit.”
Voiro’s note of McDaniel’s bat came to light after McDaniels combined with first baseman Trinidi Murrell for an inning-ending double play.
On the first pitch of the Knights’ ensuing at-bat, McDaniel’s laced a line drive deep to the center field fence.
“I was so overwhelmed when the play was over that that happened,” said McDaniels. “I literally lost my breath for a moment.”
A walk to Gibson put Khloe Banks in the batter’s box and Spruce Creek thought better of Banks’ bat by walking her to fill the basepaths.
That gave freshman catcher Meshayla Pettaway as the go-to bat for hero status and the also-fast flying batter deliverd with a long fly ball to centerfield that allowed McDaniels in for the gamewinner.
“We bat everyday and put in game situations,” said Voiro of his up-tick in batting prowess from the team. “I think the girls know of the team’s history, but we try to not dwell on it. They want their own banners for sure though.”
University High has amassed 172 runs with just 36 scored against their defense with 10 shutouts. The Lady Titans advanced with a 9-1 win over Bartram Trail.
“Spruce Creek only lost a 2-0 game,” said Voiro.
For Middleburg High softball coach Ashley Houston, the Lady Broncos ride has come with big bats and upset of sorts with Matanzas, a loser to Deltona in their district championship, 5-4, beating Gainesville 1-0 in their region opener. Gainesville beat Middleburg 2-1 in the district championship game.
Paige Amato’s two run single in the fifth was the difference for the Broncos against Deltona.