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Arduous, four-year journey culminates in Parrish Community's 5A State Championship

Updated: Dec 15, 2023



CLERMONT — Parrish Community was 8-0 when the world stopped.


It was a brand new program and the paint hadn’t hardly dried when the Bulls had to close up shop because of the global COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.


Fast forward four years and Alex Call caught a pop fly in foul territory during the top of the seventh inning that secured Parrish Community’s first-ever softball state championship.


And the program did it with its first-ever senior class.


“It’s different when you start a program,” Bulls head coach Erin Spivey said. “That has got to be the best group of kids as far as just being good people. They love each other, they’ve got each other’s backs. They’re nice. They’re humble. They analyze everything they do. As a coach, what more could I ask for?”


A 5-0 win over Deltona in Thursday’s FHSAA Class 5A State Championship game will go down in school history. Not just as the team’s first-ever state title, but the school’s first-ever state title. Parrish Community’s existed just four seasons. And quickly, the Bulls’ softball program climbed the ladder and wrote history.


“We made school history. We made program history. This program never won a regional championship or a state championship until this season. No team sport has made it to state,” said pitcher Isabella Vega.


Behind another stellar outing from Vega in the circle, the Bulls just needed to stretch a couple of runs across. After all, seven more scoreless frames from the senior made it 21 consecutive shutout innings to end the season. Behind the right-hander’s incredible pitching, Parrish Community outscored playoff opponents 58-1. On Thursday, she did it with one of her future college coaches at UCF, Jenn Salling, watching from the hilltop that overlooks the stadium field at Legends Way Ballfields.


“She means everything to [the program],” junior Ella Romano said. “We would not be here without her. At all. She has been our rock.”


Vega faced the minimum through four innings and took a perfect game bid to the fifth and got some help from her defense. Call made a tremendous play deep in the 5-6 hole and fired across the diamond to deny a Deltona two-out hit in the third.


And that was important, because Parrish Community had a 1-0 lead that came from the previous half inning. Karsyn France singled to center, then Lindsey Watson opened the scoring with an RBI single to left that brought plated her.


France, one of the original three that had been there since the day Parrish Community opened, ended up being the game-winning run.


In the fifth, the Bulls got more after Deltona got its first baserunner of the evening, but couldn’t score her, because Carsyn Kull sent a dot to second base to catch the lone Wolf running. Julia Girk started things with an RBI triple to score Rylee Little, then Kull brought her in with a chopper that got through the middle of the field. Romano entered the box, doubled to left-center and let out a scream three steps before she got to the bag. The Bulls were feeling it and they were hot.


“All I think about is energy,” Romano said. “If I’m not up, I don’t feel like I’m playing the game right. And just having that hit, it really brought the team together, we got higher. Rylee started it out and we all kept it going.”


Little tripled in the sixth and started another rally. Watson hit a grounder back to the Deltona pitcher, which she mishandled and Little came sliding in home.


5-0, Parrish Community.


Not like Vega needed any more insurance.


Two groundouts and that pop out to Call and that closed the book on a miraculous, incredible story of what a group of softball players can do in four years if they bonded together and believed.


“Regardless of original or not, those kids had a lot on their back to open a new school in the same county as Lakewood Ranch,” Spivey said. “Manatee County’s a hotbed for softball. So is Sarasota. For those schools, when a new one opens, they’re gunning for you. They had to prove day in and day out, they didn’t have anything to lose.”


Before Thursday, the Mustangs were the only Manatee County school with a softball state championship. And even that came just two seasons ago. The county now has three in three years. It’s become a hotspot for softball, just as the overall Tampa Bay area has. The area swept Thursday’s state championship games with Calvary Christian’s 3A victory and Lake Wales’ triumph in 4A.


Romano called it a “redemption season.”


Why?


Because Parrish Community very well could’ve been in the same position last year, if not for a bevy of injuries that hindered it from finishing. Before the ailments piled up, though, was when Spivey knew they had a legitimate chance to make their vision become reality.


“When Isa transferred in, I knew I had a great pitching staff with Ella Torres,” she said. “It was pretty hard to go with one pitcher all year long and that was evident when we did get injured. It was nice, they went back and forth before we settled into what our playoff lineup was going to look like. It was awesome. To have two pitchers like Isa and Ella, oh man.”


Vega and Torres were quite the duo. After every inning, Torres came from third base and tapped gloves with Vega, usually showing her a big smile and a word of encouragement or praise.


“Usually, you have two pitchers and they may not get along, but those two, they practiced together and if Isa had a pitch that wasn’t working, she had Ella watch her,” Spivey added. “If Ella wasn’t working, she’d have Isa watch her. They feed off each other. Every time we’d go over charts with both of them and they talked about what they were going to do. I’ve never had that before.”


Add in an offense that, when healthy, just put up runs in bunches – that’s a recipe for a state championship.


“They cranked it up today,” Spivey said. “When they’re on and hitting, it’s hard to see a team beat us.”


And for now, nobody will have the chance. 


Because the Bulls are state champions.


For the very first time.

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