West Orange defeated Spruce Creek in the regional final after scoring three runs in the top of the eighth inning.
After Hawks center fielder Mackenzie Childs busted a line drive past the outstretched glove of West Orange’s third baseman, Spruce Creek’s Anna Carter made a mad dash toward third base in a scoreless game in the bottom of the seventh inning. And with a chance to topple the two-time defending state champions, Spruce Creek coach Cameron McClelland had no intentions of stopping her. Carter is one of the fastest softball players in the state.
Still, the Warriors’ Cerynn Siemer gunned her down with a rifle-like throw to home plate from left field.
The score would have won the game for the Hawks. It would have given them the regional championship and a ticket to their first Final Four appearance since 2007. Instead, the Hawks’ season ended with a 3-0 loss to West Orange in eight innings on the night of Friday, May 11, at Spruce Creek High School.
“I would send her every time,” McClelland said of his decision to waive Carter toward home plate. “Everyone can second-guess things. But when you have the fastest girl you’ve ever coached and a ball through the infield in the bottom of the seventh, you send her every time.”
Friday night was a back-and-forth affair for the better part of seven innings with each team struggling to gain an edge. The Warriors loaded the bases in the first inning before Hawks ace Tiana Hernandez escaped the jam with a side-retiring strikeout. In three separate innings, the Hawks managed to put multiple runners on-base, each time resulting in a failed attempt to score.
The Warriors scored the first run of the game in the eighth inning after Hernandez walked a batter with the bases already loaded. An RBI single on the following at-bat gave the Warriors the 3-run cushion.
“We pitched well. We fielded well,” McClelland said. “But again, hats off to them.”
Despite the bitter end to the season, the Hawks overcame a lot of adversity on their way to a regional championship appearance. They started the season 12-10, including dropping four of their first seven games. The Hawks closed the season with a seven-game win streak and a district title.
“I think our focus changed. We really focused on play by inning, by pitch,” Hernandez said. “We came together more as a team, and we figured each other out by that time. We gelled at that point.”