ORANGE PARK – Ridgeview High softball coach Casey Thompson had the unenviable task of replacing a coach that got a championship attitude along with a district title and playoff spot into the Lady Panthers dugout.
“Roger Harvey (former Ridgeview coach who passed away unexpectedly last year) is a big reason why I even made the transition from baseball to softball,” said Thompson. “I grew up around him and know just how much of an impact he made on this community. The girls and I miss him dearly.”
Earlier in the season, a district win over Clay after a 2-1 loss to Orange Park put the Tues., April 16 game against Clay as a deciding game in district 4-6A.
In 2018, Ridgeview, under Harvey, upset Clay for the district 4-6A title with Clay reversing the outcome with a win in the region semifinal en route to a Final Four finish.
“Roger built an amazing program and through their hard work and dedication, they have engaged in the competitive nature of the sports,” said Thompson. “In regard to putting my own “twist” on the coaches style this year, I would say that is accurate. I am envious of how Roger guided these girls with love and rightfully earned all of their respect/loyalty. I’ve implicated three plus hours of practice times and even had mandatory “optional” days in hopes of working out a few things. Whereas Roger, being the lovable man he was, could simply smile.... crack a joke about a parrot (inside joke) and have the girls fired up for the next big game. “
Thompson, with an 11-hit blast, got a boost with a 6-0 win over Ponte Vedra on Fri., April 11 that avenged an earlier 9-3 blowout loss to the Sharks.
“Like any other team, we have had our ups and downs but they have persevered to keep their/his drive alive,” said Thompson. “I cannot say that there is a single player that has made the team transition from Roger to me easier because they have simply all done it as a family.”
The Ponte Vedra win set up the Clay showdown as for the district top seed with Clay having just the lone loss in district play to Ridgeview.
Clay High responded to the Ridgeview loss on April 3, a 5-2 game, with 15-0 and 17-0 blowouts of district foes Orange Park and Menendez and a 5-1 Saturday win over Episcopal to set up the April 16 Ridgeview clash. Clay pitcher Morgan Crutcher pounded out six strikeouts against Episcopal.
Against Ponte Vedra, Ridgeview got went 0-0 for three innings with Brittany Michael throwing heat against the Sharks batters with 13 strikeouts on the night.
In the fourth, Ridgeview struck for two runs with Brooke Michael and Alyssa Adams getting singles and a run with Brittany Michael pushing Ashlyn Halford across for the second run.
Two more strikeouts kept the Sharks at bay with an error leaving one baserunner at third.
In the bottom of the fifth, Ridgeview got a single to open from Natalie Frost before a double from Brooke Michael scored the game 3-0.
Ponte Vedra again got to third base with an error, but Michael locked down and got two strikeouts to squash the threat.
In the sixth, Ridgeview stayed with singles and smart baserunning to add the final three runs with Reghan Boyd and Hannah Foster moving baserunners with a single and a fielder’s choice bunt.
For Clay, against Episcopal, a top two team in district 2-4A with Trinity Christian, the Blue Devils scored first off a walk to Ali Sarman and a sharp double down the third base line from Morgan Silvis in the first inning.
A diving snag by Clay second baseman Ali Sarman kept an Episcopal single from scoring in the second inning.
In the third, Clay got their second run off a walk to Madison Alexander and a single from Dakota Worley to go up 2-0.
A single and two stolen bases scored a run for Episcopal in the fifth, but the Blue Devils responded to coach Matt Lewis’ “dugout chat” with three runs off singles from Sarman, Silvis and Crutcher to go up 5-1.