KEYSTONE HEIGHTS - Keystone Heights High softball shortstop Molly Crawford snagged the first three hits by Santa Fe for a quick three pitch outing for Megan Moncrief on the mound and the effort set …
KEYSTONE HEIGHTS - Keystone Heights High softball shortstop Molly Crawford snagged the first three hits by Santa Fe for a quick three pitch outing for Megan Moncrief on the mound and the effort set the tone for the fiesty Lady Indians to hold off a furious seventh inning rally to beat defending district champion Santa Fe 6-5 in the district 5-5A championship game played Thursday at Keystone Heights High School.
“This team has found ways to win in the end,” said first year Keystone Heights coach Jessica Marquart. “They will age me 10 years by the end of the season.”
Keystone Heights (19-9) continues into the region 2-5A playoffs for first year coach Jessica Marquart and will face powerhouse South Sumter in their quarterfinal match on Wed., May 3 at Keystone Heights High School. South Sumter (17-9), who beat Keystone Heights 3-2 in last year’s region opener, was a state semifinalist last year and a surprise loser in the district 6-5A championship game to once-beaten (22-1) Eustis High School. Santa Fe (21-6) will travel to play Eustis. Eustis scored five runs in the third against South Sumter, the two-time defending champion against Eustis, for their 5-0 win for the district 6-5A title.
In the bottom of the four team region bracket, district 8-5A runnerup Atlantic High (4-4) travels to district 7-5A champion Hernando (19-9) with Nature Coast Tech, the district 7-5A runnerup, heading to district 8-5A champion Bishop Moore of Orlando (9-6).
After Crawford’s defense prowess in the opening stanza of the Lady Indians match with catcher Bailey Story ripping a single into left field and Skylar Rollins pounding a triple to score the game 1-0 very quickly.
“They wanted this and a strong region run so bad, that, I think that last inning was just trying a little too hard because it was so close,” said Marquart. “Megan (Moncrief, pitcher) commanded the mound when she needed to end innings.”
A fielder’s choice grounder by Crawford scored one more run with Bre Wells singling to push the pace against the Santa Fe defense. A foul to Kaitlyn Cline behind home plate was caught to stymie the offensive barrage.
Moncrief, who finished with two strikeouts for the night and six hits, allowed a walk and a field error at first base put the Indians in a bit of a pickle after the strong opening, but Moncrief rebounded with a groundout and strikeout to squash the attempt.
Both teams exchanged strong defensive efforts in the next two innings to keep the game close until the fourth where Keystone Heights erupted for two more runs off an opening single from Crawford, a sacrifice bunt from Wells and a rifle-shot single to centerfield from Cline that pushed the score to 3-0. After a fielder’s choice grounder from Moncrief, Cami Worley blasted a deep double to centerfield to score one more run with Santa Fe pitcher Hailey Raulerson stabbed a line drive from Ashton Ludwig to end the inning.
“Cami was due for a hit tonight,” said Marquart, who noted a homer against Orange Park High last week. “She has been on it lately.”
Keystone Heights would get two more in the fifth, but Santa Fe was not content to concede the game yet and untimely turnovers by the Lady Indians made the game interesting to the very end.
Santa Fe struck for a single, an outfield error and a two run triple to close the gap to 6-2 with two throws to home plate netting zero outs as the Lady Indians were just missing opportunities to end the game.
A dropped outfield fly by Ludwig added another run and a double that split centerfield and left field put Santa Fe in position for a winning comeback, but Moncried settled in and got a game-ending foul ball that Story caught in foul territory.