Columbia edges closer to first state tournament
Published: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 12:04 a.m.
LAKE CITY — If this is indeed the season of revenge for the Columbia softball team, then Friday’s Class 6A regional final opponent Lynn Haven Mosley may be in trouble.
Because Orange Park Oakleaf, which spoiled the Tigers’ playoff run a year ago, saw its season end in the most frustrating way possible.
With the bases loaded.
Sophomore Ashley Shoup came in relief with two outs and the bases full and struck out the Knights’ No. 3 batter, Emily Johnson, to preserve a 3-1 Tigers’ victory in Tuesday’s regional semifinal.
No. 4 Columbia (25-4) advances to host the Dolphins (21-7), who upset No. 1 Niceville 5-3, in Friday’s Region 1 final. This will be the second time in three years for the Tigers, who two years ago lost to Niceville at home in the 5A regional finals, 13-2.
Columbia has never advanced to the state tournament. A win Friday night would take care of that.
“This is the best team I have ever had,” said Tigers coach Jimmy Williams. “I’ve said that since Day 1. Any night, any one kid can become big.
“I had no doubt in that last inning that Ashley was going to get that out. Bases loaded and she gets that strikeout.”
Starter Erin Anderson, also a sophomore, had pitched six scoreless innings for Columbia, scattering four Oakleaf hits up until the seventh. That’s when the Knights made it interesting.
Down 3-0, Cassidy Brewer opened the top of the seventh with a double to left-center. After a strikeout and groundout, Oakleaf was down to one out. But No. 9 hitter Jasmine Crispin, who had hit two deep flyouts in her previous at-bats, stroked a two-strike single to left, scoring Brewer to cut the Tigers’ lead to 3-1. Leadoff hitter Mikayla Davis then hit her third single of the game, and Caitlyn Jolicoeur followed with a walk to load the bases.
“She (Anderson) is our big-game pitcher,” Williams said. “Very rarely do my pitchers go all seven innings. I kind of stretched her a little. We were one strike away from ending it.”
Shoup picked up her fifth save of the season, and Anderson (13-2), who gave up three hits in the seventh, picked up the victory.
"I am so excited,” said junior catcher Hollianne Dohrn, who threw out a runner napping on second base in the second inning. “I’m ready to get revenge against Niceville (although it will be Mosley instead). This is what we have been pushing for all season.”
Columbia jumped on Oakleaf early, getting two runs in the first inning. After Brandy Morgan reached on a fielder’s choice, UF commit Kayli Kvistad ripped an RBI double to right. Tatum Morgan followed with an RBI double to left-center for a 2-0 Tiger lead.
Jessica Shimmel singled in the sixth for Columbia, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, and to third on the Knights’ third error of the game. She scored on a wild pitch, giving the Tigers a seemingly comfortable 3-0 lead going into the seventh.
“We weren’t playing from behind. Anytime you can score first is a plus,” Williams said.
Columbia committed no errors and had excellent play in the outfield from junior center fielder Brandy Morgan, who robbed Davis of a sure double in the second inning. Columbia was held to just five hits, with Kvistad getting two of them.
A year ago, the Tigers lost to Jacksonville Atlantic Coast in the district final, then fell to Oakleaf in the regional quarterfinals. This year, Columbia beat Atlantic Coast in the district final and has eliminated the Knights.
Just one more hurdle is needed to clear to finally reach the state tournament in Vero Beach.
“It was a little nervous there at the end,” Dohrn said. “Our coach’s confidence is a whole lot better than us girls. I think Ashley likes the pressure.
“Our crowd is more interactive this year than the last time we were in the regional finals. I think that gets us going. They won’t let us down.”