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Parrish Community wins pitching duel over River Ridge in 5A Semis

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

Parrish Community head coach Erin Spivey embraces third baseman Ella Torres after the Bulls' narrow victory over River Ridge in the Class 5A State Semifinals.

CLERMONT — Parrish Community starting pitcher Isabella Vega’s pre-game routine was interrupted when the lighting detectors at Legends Way Ballfields erupted and sent her team back to the bus it came from.

Vega’s in-between out routine also got interrupted when a second siren sounded and forced the Bulls off the field with two outs in the third inning.

It didn’t seem to bother her, though.

“I just came back out, warmed up like I usually do, it was fine,” she said.

Her 12-strikeout, two-hit shutout of River Ridge in Wednesday’s Class 5A State Semifinals sent Parrish Community through to its first-ever state softball championship game.

“She gutted it out,” Bulls head coach Erin Spivey said. “Those last two innings, she picked up some speed, which was nice to finally see her find a little groove.”

An Ella Torres home run with two outs in the first inning was apparently all the offense that the Bulls needed. In a hitter’s count, she pulled Jayda Smith’s 2-1 curveball to left field and wondered if it would wrap around the foul pole. It sure had the distance.

“I knew it was over the fence, I just didn’t know if it was fair or foul. Julia [Girk] yelled at me for not doing a bat flip, but I didn’t know if it was fair or foul, or what,” she said.

For a second, it looked like Parrish Community’s offense – which came in scoring over 7 1/2 runs per game – would overwhelm the Royal Knights, considering how far Torres’ home run ball went. But Smith got a line drive fly ball to left to end the inning, then got the Bulls down in order in the second.

After a first inning double, Caitlin Blankenship stepped to the plate for her second at-bat with two down.

Then, the lightning siren sounded. Again.

Wednesday’s game was originally scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. on the stadium field at Legends Way Ballfields. Just over 24 hours before first pitch, the FHSAA elected to move the game up to a 3:00 p.m. start. It didn’t matter. Vega didn’t throw the first pitch until 45 minutes after the new start time, then another 45-minute delay sent Parrish Community and River Ridge back to the buses.

An in Florida’s finest bit of irony, it rained harder after they returned to the field.

“We haven’t played in a rain delay this season, so that was a little tricky for us,” Spivey said. “We haven’t played in the rain this season, so it was different.”

Rylee Little reached on an error at third that turned into two bases, then was sacrificed to third. Smith found a way to stand the run with a pop up to catcher and a fly out to center to stand her and keep it at 1-0.

Sophie Johnson singled to left, then Lilly Jackson walked to put two on and one out against Vega in the fourth. The UCF signee reached back and got a first pitch pop out from MacKenzie Vozdecky before striking out her opposite number to get out of the jam.

“I thought we had our opportunities, we had our chances,” River Ridge head coach Kurt Goluba said. “You tip your cap. They were the better team today.”

Although Parrish won the day, if anyone believed the Royal Knights shouldn’t have been in the position they were, Wednesday’s performance eliminated any of those ideas.

“Whoever didn’t think River Ridge should be here is completely wrong,” Spivey said. “They have an incredible team, a great season, and hey, their pitcher, power to her. She did a wonderful job.”

Smith, who allowed just three hits and a walk, was forced to exit in the sixth after slipping during her warm up. Taryn Newton entered from left field and fired a 1-2-3 sixth inning. Smith returned to hit, she drew a walk, but after River Ridge got the tying run to second on a sacrifice bunt, Vega got called third strike on Lauren Kreshon to finish it.

Torres ran from third and embraced Vega, as Bulls spilled out from the dugout to celebrate not just the program’s first state title game appearance, but the school’s first title game appearance, in any sport.

“We had a send off today, that was really cool,” Vega said. “We’re not just doing it for us, we’re doing it for our school.”

Parrish Community will face Deltona in the Class 5A State Championship game on Thursday at 1 p.m., originally moved up from its 4 p.m. original game time. The Wolves enter as winners of nine straight after defeating South Fork (Stuart) in the second semifinal of the day with the hopes of earning their second consecutive state championship, albeit in a different classification after moving up from Class 4A.


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