PENSACOLA - Haley Stone’s fourth inning double fired off a five-run blitzkrieg by the Clay High softball team that finished off a 5-1 region 1-6A championship over West Florida High Friday night in …
PENSACOLA - Haley Stone’s fourth inning double fired off a five-run blitzkrieg by the Clay High softball team that finished off a 5-1 region 1-6A championship over West Florida High Friday night in Pensacola.
“We played solid ball for the entire game, but couldn’t get runners home in the first four innings,” said Clay coach Matt Lewis, who won the Class 4A title in 2001. “We were right there and I was hoping for an explosion. Making it more exciting was the two pop outs on the first two batters.”
The win puts the Lady Blue Devils (17-11) in the Class 6A Final Four in Vero Beach on May 17-18 to face Land O’ Lakes High School (24-6, defending 6A champions) on Fri., May 18 at 11:05 a.m. Clay advanced with region playoff wins over Paxon (4-1), Ridgeview (2-1) and West Florida (5-1, Region finalist in 2017, lost to Ponte Vedra). Land O’ Lakes, state runnerups in 1995 (4A) and 2016 (6A), advanced with wins over Tampa Robinson (4-2), River Ridge (5-0) and Crystal River (3-0).
In the other Final Four contest, Lake Wales (17-12, 5A champions in 2013) takes on American Heritage (19-8, 2017 6A runnerups to Land O’ Lakes) at 12:20 p.m. on May 18.
With the score locked at 0-0 in the fourth, Clay opened with pop outs to Kaitly Kumpf and Charlotte DeNapoli as pitching was controlling the game to that point.
“Morgan (Clay pitcher Morgan Crutcher) took command of this game and has been our leader from the mound,” said Lewis. “She’ s very tough to rattle out there when things get tight.”
Crutcher finished with five strikeouts in seven innings of pitching with just four hits.
From there, Marianne McDonald opened the door with a pitch hitting here that was followed by Stone’s monster double to left field.
“I wanted to get more runners on base, but Haley crushed the ball and we got the one,” said Lewis.
Clay had hit a nerve with the lone run with Sydney Lewis singling and Delaney Alfinson walking to set up a back-to-back run scoring hits from Paolo Jorge-Silva and Kylee Stacy to punch in four more runs.
“Paolo has been hot in the batter’s box lately and has come up big not just with her bat, but with some great outfield play,” said Lewis. “She has become an exciting player to watch.”
In the sixth, Crutcher orchestrated a key double play ball off a West Florida bunt attempt with baserunners in place.
Clay got one final shot at runs in the sixth with a single to Ali Sarman and a double to Kumpf with DeNapoli loading the bases getting hit by a pitch, but McDonald struck out to end the inning.
West Florida’s lone run came in the seventh with two singles and a bunt with Lewis making a heads up play at first to tag out a West Florida baserunner.