ORANGE PARK - Ridgeview High senior pitcher Brittany Michael had a familiar face to look to after a shakey first inning against Clay High in the district 4-4A softball championship game with the Blue Devils turning two walks into a run.
“Brooke (twin sister Brooke Michael, Ridgeview catcher) makes it easy for me to stay in the dugout when things get dicey,” said Ridgeview coach Casey Thompson, who maintained his own poise and let his team play their game to a final 3-1 win for his third consecutive district title. “The relationship between those two, just like most twins, is pretty awesome to watch.”
District 1-7A: Oakleaf beats Nease 12-2 in semifinal behind seven run fourth inning with Mariyah Sanchez getting three RBIs before beating Bartram Trail 9-2 in the championship game. Sanchez and Trinidi Murrell hit homers against Nease. Khloe Banks had a triple. Oakleaf, with 15 hits for the game, scored five runs in the fifth against Bartram Trail with Banks hitting a homer.
District 3-5A: Middleburg bats come alive for 20-0 win in round one and 7-1 win over Ponte Vedra in semifinals before losing a 2-1 thriller in the sixth inning to top seed Gainesville. Kaylee Crickmore hit a run scoring grounder for the Lady Broncos.
District 3-3A: Number two seed Keystone Heights (14-9) lost a 4-1 match against host Baldwin, the fourth seed. Baldwin (20-5) lost to top seed West Nassau (19-6) 6-4
District 2-2A: St. Johns Country Day School (9-5) beat First Coast Christian (2-4) 11-1 in their semifinal, then lost a 10-0 final to Trinity Christian Academy (15-6).
Region 1-7A: Spruce Creek (13-9) at Oakleaf (16-9), Thurs., May 6. Opposite bracket: Bartram Trail (17-10) at University High (22-0)
Region 1-5A: Middleburg (13-14) at Deltona (10-10), Thurs., May 6. Opposite bracket: Matanzas (11-9) at Gainesville (18-6).
Yulee (8-19) at Ridgeview (23-3), Wed., May 5 7pm, Clay (18-9) at Bishop Kenny (16-5) Wed., May 5 5pm.
St. Johns Country Day School (9-5) at North Florida Christian (11-9). Opposite bracket: Aucilla Christian (7-12) at Trinity Christian Academy (15-6).
In the district final between Clay and Ridgeview, after the first inning, which did feature three strikeouts by Michael, Brittany Michael answered right back by lacing a hard line drive to center field to look like the Panthers were about to answer Clay’s early salvo.
“No matter what the game is called; district championship, regional playoff or just a regular season game, coach Matt Lewis (Clay coach) will have his girls ready to play hard and execute,” said Thompson.
Michael advanced to third on a Mary Girgis bunt and a fielder’s choice bunt to heavy hitter Ashlyn Halford, but Clay freshman pitcher Gabrielle Ellis throttled down the momentum with a whiff of Haley Mcrea to end the scoring opportunity.
Michael added three more whiffs of her own in the ensuing inning and what looked like may be a scoring bonanza was slowly becoming a defensive duel waiting for one team to blink.
Clay shortstop Kaylee Stacy made an outstanding stretched snag of a hard line drive by Ridgeview’s Natalie Foret to stymie a two base error to Brooke Michael in the prior at bat.
“In a game like this, it’s one or two little things that make big momentum shifts,” said Thompson. “Their defense played great when they were pressed and we could not capitalize.”
Brittany Michael again hurled three Ks for inning three.
In the bottom of the fourth, Stacy again snagged a hard Ridgeview at bat; this time from Halford, to end the inning with the 1-0 score holding.
The Clay defense blinked in the fourth inning with Ellis giving up a walk and two doubles; one to Brooke Michael for a tying run before a third double came, but Clay’s defense held at 1-1.
Clay had a chance to score runs in the fifth wiht Ellis reaching on an error and Kendyll Mann awarded first base on a dead ball call. Ellis got to third, but Mann was tagged out at second base on a baserunning snafu to end the inning.
With the apparent momentum shift of the Clay miscues, Ridgeview piled on with Girgis smashing a triple to centerfield followed by doubles to Halford and Mcrae to put Ridgeview up 3-1.
“I was holding my breath thinking hard all day about my lineup and if I should adjust, but I stayed with the girls where they were knowing they always find a way,” said Thompson.