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How'd they get here? A look at Parrish Community's run to the Class 5A state tournament

Updated: Dec 15, 2023



Welcome to state tournament week. Seven Tampa Bay area teams have punched their tickets to play in the 2023 FHSAA Softball State Championships in their respective classes, up from six in each of the past two seasons.


At Bay Made Fastpitch, instead of a traditional game preview article that doesn’t tell the full story of a team’s season, we put together a unique piece of preview content that shows that full body of work. It showcases our coverage of these teams all season long, while previewing the state championship series slate.


You’ll see what we mean as we go along.


We finish in Class 5A with the second half of the day’s second semifinal, as Parrish Community will get set to take on River Ridge in a semifinal at 3 p.m. at Legends Way Ballfields. The Bulls enter at 22-3 and on an eight-game winning streak after taking down North Fort Myers in the Class 5A-Region 3 Championship Game on Friday.


FEBRUARY


2/28 – at Sarasota – W, 10-7 (1-0)


We got a chance to look at Parrish Community in its season-opening game against the Lady Sailors. The biggest storyline to the start of the season was simply that everyone was back in action.


Head coach Erin Spivey phrased it this way.


“Every week, you would lose somebody else and you were just broken. I felt like towards the end we were just like a car limping along on one tire. We had a great season, but we truly didn’t get the opportunity through playoffs to really put a label on that season,” she said.


Opening Night in Sarasota provided an opportunity to begin putting their label on the 2023 season. Karsyn France knocked one out of the park, while Alex Call, Ella Torres, Julia Girk and Ella Romano all had two hits in a strong offensive outing.


The common consensus and something that stuck throughout the year?


“When we’re on, we’re on,” France said.


MARCH


3/2 – Venice – W, 10-0 (2-0)

3/7 – Lakewood Ranch – W, 6-1 (3-0)


UCF signee Isabella Vega allowed just one hit – a sixth-inning home run to Cassidy McLellan – struck out 14 and went 2-for-4 at the dish with two RBI in an emotional, signature win for the Bulls over the two-time defending Class 7A State Champions.


3/10 – McKeel Academy – W, 10-0 (4-0) // Bartow Home of Champions Tournament

3/10 – Lake Wales – W, 11-0 (5-0) // Bartow Home of Champions Tournament

3/11 – Lake Region – L, 3-2 (5-1) // Bartow Home of Champions Tournament

3/11 – Palm Harbor University – W, 8-1 (6-1) // Bartow Home of Champions Tournament


The Bulls took third at the Home of Champions and could have very well have found their way into the championship game, if not for a borderline call that Parrish Community felt should’ve gone their way – Torres and Vega also combined to one-hit their opponents. Instead, they fell to the Thunder, which took home the tournament’s championship.


A run-rule win over Class 4A State Finalist Lake Wales was great to get as a part of a pivotal stretch of games with four more in Tampa upcoming, and hopefully, a fully stocked lineup after a scorching weekend in Bartow left a hole here and a hole there.


3/15 – Calvary Christian – L, 4-1 (6-2) // Bay Made Fastpitch Elite Invitational

3/16 – Gaither – W, 12-2 (7-2) // Bay Made Fastpitch Elite Invitational

3/16 – Durant – W, 3-0 (8-2) // Bay Made Fastpitch Elite Invitational

3/17 – Plant – W, 5-3 (9-2) // Bay Made Fastpitch Elite Invitational


Parrish Community ended up getting two state tournament qualifiers to bookend their first trip to the Elite Invitational and a second consecutive 3-1 tournament effort helped the Bulls take home the Silver Bracket Championship.


Highlights over the week included Romano’s 3-for-3, 4-RBI game against Gaither, the Ella x Ella combo emerging as Romano and Torres went yard against Durant and Vega’s complete game, 11-strikeout effort against Plant.


Eight games in seven days helped prepare the Bulls for the stretch run. Going 6-2 in that stretch against three state qualifiers and six regional tournament qualifiers turned heads and showed that Parrish Community’s state title aspirations were legitimate.


3/21 – at Canterbury – W, 14-0 (10-2)

3/23 – at Lakewood Ranch – W, 1-0 (11-2)


Vega twirled another gem, allowing just two Mustang hits and a 3-for-3 day from Julia Girk secured a regular-season sweep of the defending champs. Mark it down as another accomplishment in a season filled with them.


3/30 – at Venice – W, 11-1 (12-2)

3/31 – at Berkeley Prep – W, 12-2 (13-2)


APRIL


4/5 – at Palmetto – W, 6-0 (14-2)


A five-game road swing after a pair of tournaments? Pretty, pretty, pretty good. The Bulls’ offense was humming, Vega was blowing batters away – her 17-strikeout perfect game of Palmetto showed just that – and they were playing some of their best softball of the season ahead of the highly-anticipated rematch with an upstart Sarasota squad.


4/11 – Sarasota – L, 3-1 (14-3)


The first true home game in over a month, the Lady Sailors sailed into Parrish and turned around without a second glance. Ryleigh Bennett allowed Parrish Community to just three hits and a two-run double in the third inning was enough to snap the Bulls’ eight-game winning streak in the return fixture.


4/14 – at Fort Myers – W, 9-2 (15-3)

4/19 – Palmetto – W, 4-0 (16-3)

4/20 – Braden River – W, 8-0 (17-3)


Solid offensive performances across the board highlighted the final three games of the Bulls’ regular season. The Ella-squared tandem was back, because Torres went 4-for-4 against Fort Myers and Romano went 3-for-4 with two doubles against the Greenies. Vega faced just one over the minimum this time in the rematch with Palmetto, then one-hit Braden River to finish April.


Parrish Community entered the postseason with a whole host of confidence.


MAY


5/2 – No. 4 Spoto – W, 13-0 (18-3) // Class 5A-District 10 Semifinal


15 players registered a plate appearance, Call went yard, Torres drove in three, Grace Woodring drove in three and Vega no-hit the Spartans and struck out 14 in an open-and-shut type of game to begin the postseason.


5/4 – No. 2 East Bay – W, 15-0 (19-3) // Class 5A-District 10 Final


Parrish Community send home Spoto in five innings, and then they turned the Indians away in four innings. Girk went 4-for-4, Torres went 3-for-4 with four RBI, Carsyn Kull went 3-for-3 with four RBI, and you get the picture from there. Vega twirled another no-hitter, this one a four-inning, 57-pitch outing where she struck out six. For the second consecutive season, the Bulls hoisted a district championship trophy with so much more to play for.


5/11 – No. 8 St. Petersburg – W, 10-0 (20-3) // Class 5A-Region 3 Quarterfinal


Much like the Lakewood Ranch teams we’ve seen in previous seasons, it appeared that the Bulls were allergic to playing seven-inning games. This time, they wrapped things up in five against a Green Devil team that was riding high after winning its first district championship in program history.


Girk and Kull starred again go a combined 4-for-5 with four RBI and six runs scored and guess who tossed another no-hitter? If you guessed Vega, you’ve won a fabulous prize. She struck out 12 and faced just one over the minimum to send the Bulls back to the region semifinals.


5/16 – No. 5 Barron Collier (Naples) – W, 12-1 (21-3) // Class 5A-Region 3 Semifinal


Another playoff round, another run-rule victory.


This time, the Bulls struck for seven in the sixth inning to end it then. Kull drove in three, Call drove in a pair, while she and Lindsey Watson each doubled to send the Cougars back down I-75. Vega was tremendous in the circle for a sixth consecutive game, striking out 11 and allowing one run on four Baron Collier hits. Parrish Community was advanced past the regional semifinal for the first time in program history.


5/19 – No. 2 North Fort Myers – W, 2-0 (22-3) // Class 5A-Region 3 Final


Without a doubt, the Red Knights provided the biggest challenge for Parrish Community, something we anticipated heading into the round. North Fort Myers entered at 25-2 and had swept the season series of Fort Myers to earn the right to compete for a state semifinal berth.


Vega and North Fort Myers starter Kendall Wylie battled for four scoreless innings before Kull provided the biggest hit of the Bulls’ season, a two-run fifth-inning double that scored Girk and Grace Crestani. The senior wrapped things up in the circle and the Bulls’ state final hopes earned the right to continue on.


Wednesday’s start time was moved to 3:00 p.m. to anticipate inclement weather for the rest of the afternoon. Parrish Community enters in at the No. 1 seed and faces River Ridge, which comes in at 20-8 after winning Region 2 by defeating Auburndale on Friday.

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