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Friday, Mar 27, 2015

Hernando wins Leopard Slam in dramatic style

Hernando Today correspondent

Published:   |   Updated: March 23, 2014 at 11:19 PM

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BROOKSVILLE - Signature wins don't come easy for host Hernando High. Just ask anyone who attended Saturday night's Leopard Slam III Softball Tournament final at Tom Varn Park.

But tied at 1-1 with one out and Lady Leopard runners at first and second, Hernando senior shortstop Tana McDaniel launched a RBI double off right-hander Makenzie Goluba to right-center, plating Erika Lewis with the winning run in a pulsating win over Ridge Ridge, 2-1.

Last year, the Royal Knights (15-2) solved HHS in a tense semifinal, 1-0, en route to the tourney title.

The victory served as Hernando's (15-1) eighth in a row, but first in 13 years over the Royal Knights - or since April 14, 2001's 12-0 spanking at Veterans Memorial Park in Hudson during the Ridgewood Tournament.

HHS right-hander Courtney Riddle (15-1) walked a tight rope for eight innings against a rugged RRHS lineup that came in batting just under .400.

The county's defending Player of the Year retired RRHS in order only in the sixth and eighth frames.

Riddle scattered seven hits and survived two hit batsmen, two walks and a game-high three errors behind four strikeouts. In all, Riddle stranded 11 Royal Knight runners, including nine left in scoring position.

RRHS junior Madisyn Palmer and senior Morgan Tolle each collected two hits off Riddle.

Goluba (14-2) permitted five hits, one wild pitch and one walk against a game-high seven strikeouts.

To reach the finals, RRHS blanked three-time defending Class 3A state champion Del Ray Beach-American Heritage earlier Saturday afternoon, 4-0, while HHS handed gutsy Citrus its lone tourney setback, 5-2.

HHS dented the scoreboard in the first inning as the leadoff batter, catcher Megan Lane, set the tone.

Lane, who finished the tourney going 8-of-13 (.615 batting average) with eight runs scored and seven stolen bases in seven attempts, opened the game with a single to left.

After Danielle Harvey laid down done a perfect sacrifice bunt, Lane stole third base and promptly scored on a Goluba wild pitch, 1-0 Lady Leopards.

The New Port Richey crew tied matters in the second as Anessa Holes coaxed a walk and scored with two outs on a RBI single to right by McKenzie McGuire, 1-1.

Missed opportunities plagued the Knights. The Pasco County club loaded the bases with no outs in the third.

But perhaps in the one of the bigger plays of the game, Kylie Randolph's tapper in front of the plate was collected by Lane, who alertly stepped on home plate for a fielder's choice before whistling a throw to first sacker Darrian Hunter, completing the game's only double play.

Riddle extricated herself out of that jam by enticing Holes to ground out to Summer Solovitch at second.

In the fifth, with Tolle on second base aboard on an error, Randolph blooped a single behind first base. As Tolle raced home, Solovitch's relay peg back to Lane blocking the plate cut down Tolle.

In River Ridge's last gasp with runners at second and third with one out in the seventh, Riddle forced Melissa Moore into a comebacker before Randolph flied out.

HHS' eighth-inning rally began innocently enough as Lewis' bunt dropped for an infield single despite a valiant head-long dive for the ball that trickled in and out of Goluba's glove.

With one out, Harvey beat out an infield bunt single.

Two pitches later, the Division I Morehead State signee McDaniel delivered the game-winning blast.

Lewis was 0-for-2 before batting in the bottom of the eighth.

"I was overdue. I had to make something happen," said Lewis. "When I saw Tana's hit, I was hoping it was going over the center fielder's head."

On the significance of the win, "This was so big," identified Lewis, who turned 17 on Friday. "We've been struggling against River Ridge for a while."

"It feels great to have a hand in the big rally," said the 17-year-old Harvey. "Big props to Tana - she always comes through in the clutch. A win like this put us exactly where we needed to be."

"As soon as Erika got on, I knew we'd win," added the 18-year-old McDaniel. "I thought Courtney did a great job on the mound and we executed defensively when we needed to. I didn't have the greatest game, but my teammates had my back."

HHS skipper Kevin Bittinger celebrated his 136th career win and first-ever nod over the Knights.

"You know River Ridge's first four batters will give you problems," indicated Bittinger. "We did not want to get beat by any of their top four batters, someone else was going to have to step up for them."

In analyzing the monumental win, "The key was when Courtney needed to make key pitches, she did. When our defense needed to make plays, it did. We came out in attack mode from the first pitch on," he said.

In the semifinal victory over Citrus, Riddle deserved the game ball.

On the hill, Riddle handcuffed the hard-hitting Golden Hurricanes to a 2-for-26 effort (.077 batting average). She permitted two singles, three walks, hit a batter and hurled a wild pitch while collecting a season-low one strikeout.

Down 4-0, CHS tallied two unearned runs in the fifth on two Lady Leopard errors, plus Jordan Josey's RBI single.

For its part, HHS blasted a game-high 11 hits off Kelly Abramowich.

In a two-run first frame, Harvey enjoyed a RBI single and Riddle plated the first of her four RBI with a fielder's choice.

In the third, Harvey reached on an infield single before Riddle deposited a two-run homer over the left-field wall.

Riddle's RBI double in the bottom of the fifth just missed her second straight homer, hitting the base of the fence to score McDaniel.

In all, Lane set the pace going 3-for-4 while Harvey, Riddle and Sierra Cannon each chipped in two hits.

"We're playing so much better ball," detailed Riddle after the game. "I think we played with a lot more passion. It just seemed like we all really wanted this.

"Citrus is a good team," described Riddle. "They battled the entire game. I thought (first baseman) Darrian (Hunter) played a really good game, too."

"I loved the energy level," pointed out Coach Bittinger. "We have the ability to force the issue and we did that today. When people like Lane and Harvey are doing their thing that puts teams on their heels."

? ? ?

Nature Coast Technical split its two Saturday tilts to finish sixth, one spot behind last year's fifth-place finish.

In the Lady Sharks' third game, NCT topped Lecanto, 7-4.

The Lady Panthers roughed up NCT starter Alyssa Gonzalez (5-0) for 10 of their game-high 12 hits.

The biggest blow was Paige Richards' three-run homer in the bottom of the third, which cut the lead to 4-3.

Abbey Primavera replaced Gonzalez in the fifth and twirled 2 1/3 innings of two-hit scoreless relief.

Offensively, Kathryn Gonzalez paced the Lady Sharks with a 4-for-4 effort and three runs scored. Brianna "Breezy" Harvey was the only other Lady Shark in doubles figures finishing 2-for-4.

Veteran Lady Shark mentor Ernie Chatman succinctly described the team's 14th win.

"Richards' homer sparked them and it should," he said. "We didn't give them much (no errors), so they earned everything they got. I would sum up this game as we simply survived."

NCT dropped its fourth-round tilt to scrappy Belleview, 5-1, to finish 2-2.

For its part, Central went 0-4 after finishing 3-1 last year at Tom Varn Park.

On Friday, CHS fell to Belleview, 3-2, before being falling to The Villages, 4-1.

On Saturday, the Lady Bears were roughed up by Crystal River, 14-1, before being blanked by Fivay, 4-0.

Hard-throwing Fivay right-hander Jill McElderry who had earlier in the day no-hit Mount Dora Bible, 3-0, tossed a three-hit bagel at Central.

In both games, McElderry fanned 13 batters.

CHS played Fivay with a makeshift lineup minus two starters and hurt its upset chances stranding eight runners on base.

"We were in every game we played this weekend," said CHS skipper Tyson Ellis. "Even the Crystal River game was 2-1 in the fifth inning. What we need to do is string more hits together and we must do a better job bunting.

"Kaeleen (Koehler) pitched better and actually so did Ashley Logan," pointed out Ellis. "Everybody we brought played and that's great in this field. Even with a revamped lineup we held our own today against one of area's outstanding pitchers - so that's a good sign."

Hernando 5, Citrus 2

123 456 7 R H E

CIT 000 020 0 - 2 2 0

HER 202 010 x - 5 11 3

CIT - K. Abramowich and Corlew.

HER - Riddle and Lane.

W - Riddle (14-1). L - K. Abramowich.

2B - HER: Riddle, McDaniel.

3B - HER: Riddle.

Records - Citrus (2-1 tourney, 13-4 overall), Hernando (3-0 tourney, 14-1 overall).


Hernando 2, River Ridge 1 (8 Innings)

123 456 78 R H E

RR 010 000 00 - 1 7 2

HER 100 000 01 - 2 5 3

RR - Goluba and Lyons.

HER - Riddle and Lane.

W - Riddle (15-1). L - Goluba (14-2).

2B - HER: McDaniel.

Records - River Ridge (3-1 tourney, 15-2 overall), Hernando (4-0 tourney, 15-1 overall).

Nature Coast Technical 7, Lecanto 4

123 456 7 R H E

NCT 103 210 0 - 7 10 0

LEC 003 100 0 - 4 12 6

LEC - Yant and Hopkins.

NCT- A. Gonzalez, Primavera (5) and C. Gonzalez.

W - A. Gonzalez (5-0). L - Yant.

2B - LEC: Hopkins; NCT: Primavera, Brooks.

Records - Lecanto (1-2 tourney, 5-7 overall),

Nature Coast Technical (2-1 tourney, 14-1 overall).

Fivay 4, Central 0

123 456 7 R H E

CEN 000 000 0 - 0 3 2

FIV 100 300 x - 4 7 1

FIV - McElderry and Phillips.

NCT- A. Gonzalez and C. Gonzalez.

W - McElderry (10-3), L - Koehler (5-9).

2B - FIV: McElderry (2).

Records - Central (0-4 tourney, 5-12 overall), Fivay (2-2 tourney, 10-5 overall).

Leopard Slam III Softball Results at Brooksville's Tom Varn Park


Round 1:

Hernando 9, Mount Dora Bible 2

Lecanto 11, First Academy of Leesburg 0

Citrus 4 Mitchell 1

Nature Coast Technical 4, Fivay 0

Belleview 3, Central 2

River Ridge 9, The Villages 0

American Heritage 12, Pasco 2 (6)

Winter Springs 6, South Sumter 3

Round 2:

Hernando 11, Lecanto 1 (4.5)

Citrus 2, Nature Coast Technical 1 (6.5)

River Ridge 10, Belleview 2

American Heritage 7, South Sumter 2

Winter Springs 6, Pasco 2

First Academy of Leesburg 16, Mount Dora Bible 4

Mitchell 12, Fivay 1

The Villages 4, Central 1


Round 3:

Fivay 4, Mount Dora Bible 0

Mitchell 12, First Academy of Leesburg 0

Crystal River 14, Central 1

Hernando 5, Citrus 2

River Ridge 4, American Heritage 0

Nature Coast Technical 7, Lecanto 4

Belleview 11, South Sumter 5

Round 4:

15th Place

The Villages 6, Pasco 1

13th Place

Mount Dora Bible 5, First Academy of Leesburg 1

11th Place

Fivay 4, Central 0

9th Place


7th Place

South Sumter 12, Lecanto 1

5th Place

Belleview 5, Nature Coast Technical 1

3rd Place

Citrus 10, American Heritage 3


Hernando 2, River Ridge 1 (8 Innings)

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