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Late homer halts Spartans


ORANGE PARK – A 10th inning homer ended a dramatic 1-1 deadlocked softball region playoff between St. Johns Country Day School and North Florida Christian played Thurs., May 9 at St. Johns Country Day School.

Unfortunately, it was North Florida who pinned the gamewinner after Maddie Wilkes’ solo homer and a stellar pitching performance from St. Johns senior Brianna Enter who finished with 21 strikeouts. St. Johns ends their season at 14-6.

“I certainly did not want it to end like this,” said Enter, who has already penned a commit to Florida State University. “We just couldn’t get anyone around the bases after the tie.”

St. Johns fell behind 1-0 in the first inning with grounder that skipped past Spartan shortstop Maddie Wilkes and a triple that bounced between two Spartan outfielders.

From there, St. Johns was trying to play catch-up against NFC pitcher Maddie Mayo, just an eighth grader.

With a walk to Enter in the bottom of the first inning and an error to a grounder from Linsey Arnett to the shortstop, St. Johns looked to answer quickly to the NFC lead, but Enter got tagged out at third and Mayo ended the inning with the first of her 11 strikeouts for the game. “We had the opportunities, but our lineup is young and it takes some experience to overcome some of the situations we got into,” said St. Johns coach Deric Enter. “I have just four seniors; one a first year varsity and the rest is a middle school team. The young ones did a great job all year. This was just so much more intense.”

With both pitchers locking down innings with strikeouts, it was Wilkes who broke the deadlock with a centerfield homer in the bottom of te third inning.

“She’s one of those veteran players,” said Derick Enter. “She’s been doing that all year.”

The game resumed as a deadlocked strikeout fest into extra innings with St. Johns getting Wilkes to second base in the bottom of the fifth and Enter getting intentionally walked setting up a ground out to Arnett that ended the scoring attempt.

In the top of the eighth, NFC ventured on to the basepaths for the first time since a dropped third strike put a baserunner at first in the fifth inning with a single, a double and a walk loading the bases, but Enter crashed the party with two strikeouts.

“My fingers were getting tired and I had to concentrate hard to keep my pitches where I wanted them,” said Enter.

In the bottom of the eighth, Wilkes walked, but got tagged out at second on a grounder to Enter as St. Johns tried to end the game.

An infielder error put NFC back on base, but Enter again hurled two strikeouts to squash the inning.

In the 10th, Enter opened with a strikeout before going zero balls and two strikes on Culp, the NFC catcher, in a classic battle of titans.

“She is also going to FSU,” said Enter. “It’s ironic that it came down to two FSU signees one-on-one; one a pitcher, the other a catcher.”

On pitch three, Culp caught Enter’s rise ball quickly and sent the shot into the tree just beyond the St. Johns centerfield fence.

“It just hung there for her,” said Enter.

In the Spartans’ final at bat, with Wilkes the third batter to step up, Deric Enter saw an opportunity for Wilkes to again be the Spartan hero.

With two outs, Mayo intentionally walked Wilkes.

“After the homer, she was throwing away from Maddie and keeping here from hitting another homer,” said Brianna Enter. “She got on base and I needed to get the hit to move her.”

Enter stepped in and delivered a hard grounder to shortstop Emma Brice that looked like it was going to make it, but Brice snagged the ball and flipped the gamestopper in front of Wilkes to end the game.