HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL

Columbia softball one win from state championship


Columbia batter Caleigh McCaulley provided an offensive catalyst for the Tigers with a three-run double in Friday's 7-1 state semifinal win over Bradenton Lakewood Ranch in Vero Beach.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, May 10, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 12:27 a.m.

VERO BEACH — It has been a recurring theme throughout this season with Columbia softball coach Jimmy Williams — you never know who is going to step up and be the star.

On Friday, with a berth in the Class 6A state final on the line, that person was junior Caleigh McCaulley.

McCaulley hit two doubles, including a bases-clearing shot to right-center in a four-run fifth inning, to lead No. 1 Columbia to a 7-1 victory over Bradenton Lakewood Ranch in the semifinals at the Vero Beach Sports Village.

The win puts the Tigers (27-4) in today's championship game for the first time in school history. They will face defending champion Pembroke Pines Charter, which eliminated Gainesville, 4-2, in the other semifinal.

“We have talked, since the first day of practice, about hitting balls into the gap when the bases are loaded,” Williams said. “McCaulley had a heck of a great day. That was probably her best this season.

“It was her day, but on any given day, any girl in our lineup can carry us and win a ballgame. They just believe in each other.”

Despite their No. 1 ranking, the Tigers were the visitors on the scoreboard and came out aggressive, scoring three runs in the top of the first, getting a run-scoring double by Tatum Morgan and McCaulley, with Kavli Kvistad, who reached on a single, scoring on an outfield error. It all added up to a 3-0 Columbia lead.

Lakewood Ranch (21-10-1), which knocked off previous No. 1 River Ridge in the regional finals, got a run back in the bottom of the first. But that would be as close as the Mustangs would get.

After three scoreless innings, the Tigers pretty much put the game away in fifth. Taking advantage of some walks from Lakewood Ranch starter Amanda Rak, Columbia loaded the bases for McCaulley, who delivered the biggest hit of the game, driving in three runs for a six-run lead.

“When I went up there it was 4-1 and I told myself if she throws it over the plate I'm going to take a cut at it, and I never take a swing at the first pitch,” McCaulley said. “I took a cut at it and it went to the fence and I got three RBIs from it. It made me feel good knowing that I did that for my team. I wouldn't want to play for anyone else.

“We are not going to leave here with a loss. I feel very good about the championship game. Very good. We picked each other up. All of us are sisters, even though we are not blood sisters, we are family. We have a bond like no one has.”

Sophomore Erin Anderson (16-2), who had started the previous three regional playoff games, got the win in relief, pitching 3.2 innings with one strikeout. Fellow sophomore Ashley Shoup got the start, giving up four hits in 3.1 innings pitched with one unearned run.

“In my mind I know which one I want to finish with,” Williams said. “I wanted to finish with Erin. Ashley seemed to have the hot hand the last couple of games as a closer. So I wanted to get off to a hot start. They are both our No. 1 pitchers. I'm not scared to put in either pitcher with the bases loaded.”

Besides McCaulley's two-hit, four-RBI day, Tatum Morgan also had a pair of hits with two runs scored and two runs driven in.

“It means the world, I'm glad we can come together as a team and play again,” said junior catcher Hollianne Dohrn. “We haven't been visitors in a long time and I think that helped us a lot. For the title game, we need to stay humble and play together.”

Williams said he will start Anderson in today's championship game, which will be at 4:35 p.m. The championship game can be seen live online at fhsaa.playonsports.com.

“We knew we were going to be visitors going in today and all the girls talked about this morning was getting three in the first,” Williams said. “This group of juniors have achieved a lot of firsts. They were the first group to reach the regional finals when they were freshmen, and they were the first group to win a regional final and now the first to reach the state final. This group of juniors are just awesome.

“We are going to do everything the same tomorrow. We will eat the same sandwiches we ate for lunch. Do everything exactly the same and come in here and see if we can win it all.”

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