Monday, Oct 20, 2014
Hernando High

Riddle remains county’s finest


Published:

Hernando High senior Courtney Lynne Riddle represents many things to many people – especially on the softball diamond.

Suffice it to say, the right-handed pitcher closed her six-year prep career on top. Not necessarily at states, but near the top of her game.

Across six seasons – two at Hernando Christian Academy and the last four at HHS – the 18-year-old Riddle achieved what few players have ever dreamed of, as her teams amassed 119 wins in 164 prep tilts (73 percent).

In between, the Brooksville-born-and-raised Riddle guided four teams to four district titles and four regional finals – something no Hernando County fast-pitch hurler in 25 seasons has ever done – besides reaching the FHSAA’s coveted Final Four twice.

The 5-foot-8, 145-pounder could beat teams in several capacities serving as an adroit extra infielder on the mound, or knocking home 150 career runs, or exploiting batters from the mound behind 787 innings pitched, 734 career strikeouts and 94 victories.

Area coaches along with the Hernando Today staff not only anointed Riddle to her fifth All-County team – the first such pick since HCA’s Mary Ellen Langley in 2008 – but she was doubly honored as the repeat unanimous Player of the Year selection.

Her career statistics paint a picture of one of the best, if not the best-ever player, to ever play within the Hernando County borders.

Riddle’s 24 county records are evidence of her legacy. The area coaches applauded her outstanding body of work.

“She didn’t repeat as our player of the team due to one facet of her game. Courtney was chosen because of what she did pitching, playing defense and hitting at the plate. You can’t measure what she did for our program,” described Hernando’s ninth-year skipper Kevin Bittinger. “A lot of teams lose their most productive power hitter. But how many times is she also your number one pitcher? Hardly ever. She consistently shut down other teams.

“To me, her maturity is why her game developed. You can’t hope to have someone else like her. … I don’t know if I’ll ever coach another kid like her in 20 years,” added Bittinger. “A lot of players can have a phenomenal season, but how many can perform at that level for six years?

“Nothing against Becky Powell, Alexis Adams or Chrissy Hartley – but Courtney is our county’s best all-time pitcher.”

Perhaps Weeki Wachee mentor Charlene Ross best summed up Riddle’s efforts.

“She’s the Player of the Year because she’s a game-changer,” stressed Ross. “And she led her team to the regional finals again.”

“It was surprising to a certain extent to be honored again as Player of the Year,” reacted Riddle to the announcement. “Sure, I was hoping I’d get it again, but you never know. There are a lot of good players here.”

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Contrary to popular belief, the only child of David and Rachel Riddle wasn’t “raised” on a ball field.

Her formative years were spent as a cheerleader for the Hernando Youth League.

She also participated in gymnastics and played HYL soccer for four campaigns – ranging from goalkeeper to defense.

“Most of my friends played soccer, so I played,” she recalled. “Deep down I didn’t think I had a future with it. I stopped playing soccer when I played Ponytails (age 10 softball) at the Dixie level.”

Riddle vividly recalls the struggles of her early days on a diamond.

“I was terrible,” she candidly explained. “I couldn’t catch a fly ball to save my life. When I batted, I always stepped forward with the wrong foot.

“I wanted to be as good as some of my friends. … The reason I started to get better was I wanted to make All-Stars, too.”

In her formative years, her father would go to the field with her and spend countless hours playing catch, shagging flies and taking extra cuts at the plate before and after practice.

Riddle credits fellow senior Tana McDaniel for always wanting to practice and former HCA mentor Ernie Chatman for giving her prudent advice on improving her swing and bettering her footwork.

Of all the facets to Riddle’s game, she takes the most pride in pitching.

“Pitching is what I’m known for,” she declared. “I’m not a power pitcher, I’m known for my movement. At HCA, I was not a mature player. I put it in the corners and it worked for me. But at this level (at Hernando), you can’t just live hitting the corners. If you don’t have movement, they’ll hit. I work harder on my movement than my speed.”

Defensively, Riddle enjoyed flashing the leather.

“When I played for the (travel ball team) Havoc, the one thing we were big on was defense,” noted Riddle. “At that level, if you can’t hit, you’d better be able to play defense. There are too many one-run games. I was fortunate because the girls I played with emphasized defense.”

Hitting, according to Riddle, was a matter of maturation.

“When I was at HCA, I didn’t have much discipline,” she recalled. “I was just trying to hit the ball hard. As you get older you understand what your job is with say, runners on base and less than two outs – hit the ball to the right side. As I matured as a batter I worked on a lot of those little things a lot harder.”

Like most of Riddle’s records, she gave credit to others in becoming the first Hernando County player in a generation to reach 100 or more career RBI.

“If Ashley (Sims), Megan (Lane), Danielle (Harvey) and Tana hadn’t done their job of constantly getting on base, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what I did,” explained Riddle.

Riddle’s prep career closed on a down note, losing to Belleview in the Class 5A, Region II final, at a jam-packed Tom Varn Park, 18-4.

According to Riddle, that setback shouldn’t detract what she and her teammates accomplished between the lines.

“That was one game,” detailed Riddle. “Sure, I would have loved to win and advanced (to states). Games like that are going to happen. I don’t look at that game as the one that defined what we did – it happened to be our last game.

“Looking back, I think we all did our best,” she added. “I don’t look back with any regrets. It was a great run.”

Riddle, who carries a 3.3 grade point average, aspires to have a future in criminal justice. Her dream is to become an FBI agent.

She’s already signed to play for the College of Central Florida Patriots in Ocala next season.

“It’s close to home to start off with,” explained Riddle. “It’s a great opportunity to work with my coaches.”

She plans to play for the JUCO program for two seasons before transferring to a four-year university.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity of playing in Ocala,” said Riddle. “Playing closer to home allows my parents and family a chance to be there, too.”

Riddle advises any young ballplayers prior to entering HHS, “Work hard and don’t give Coach B. (Bittinger) an attitude,” said Riddle.

With the curtains descending on a fabulous prep career, “I’d like to be remembered not only as a great ballplayer,” she said. “But as a great person on and off the field.”

By the numbers: Courtney Riddle

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO

Hitting

at HCA

YR GP AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI .AVG

2009 28 61 15 21 1 2 0 09 .344

2010 26 72 28 31 10 4 0 22 .431

TOTALS 54 133 43 52 11 6 0 31 .391

at Hernando

YR GP AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI .AVG

2011 21 67 08 21 2 2 0 14 .313

2012 25 80 10 28 7 0 0 19 .350

2013 29 96 02 43 13 0 1 42 .448

2014 30 97 04 47 14 2 3 44 .485

TOTALS 105 340 24 139 36 4 4 119 .409

Career

GP AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI .AVG

159 473 67 191 47 10 4 150 .404

Pitching

at HCA

YR AP GS CG IP H R ER BB KO SHO W L ERA

2009 24 09 04 80.2 58 39 18 28 80 1 10 3 1.56

2010 23 21 15 133.2 93 54 19 43 163 3 17 5 0.99

TOTALS 47 30 19 214.1 151 93 37 71 243 4 27 8 1.21

at HHS

YR AP GS CG IP H R ER BB KO SHO W L ERA

2011 17 14 08 83.2 78 39 29 15 58 2 8 4 2.43

2012 22 15 12 116.1 85 55 19 47 77 2 10 9 1.14

2013 29 29 26 188.2 148 71 38 47 177 6 22 7 1.41

2014 29 29 25 184.0 130 56 39 38 179 10.5 27 2 1.48

TOTALS 97 87 71 572.2 441 221 125 147 491 20.5 67 22 1.53

Career

AP GS CG IP H R ER BB KO SHO W L ERA

144 117 90 787.0 592 314 162 218 734 24.5 94 30 1.44

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