VERO BEACH -- Five-time state champion American Heritage — hoping to defend its softball title — fell short after finding itself in unfamiliar territory Wednesday afternoon.
The Patriots mustered just one hit in a 2-0 loss to St Johns Creekside in the Class 5A state semifinals at Vero Beach Sports Village.
Heritage (23-5) failed to collect a hit until there was one out in the seventh on Ashley Belans’ double to left off Rachel Pence (15-1), who had retired 18 of 19 batters.
With the game-tying run at the plate, Pence induced a groundout and strikeout to end the Patriots’ season. The only other Heritage baserunner was Gianna Arrizurieta, who walked with one out in the first.
From the first to fourth innings, Pence set down 10 in a row before Belans reached with two outs on an error by the third baseman. Pence struck out 10.
“I feel like we just didn’t come out prepared,” said Sarah Angulo, who went 0 for 2. “We’re usually so good offensively. And [Wednesday], it just didn’t happen. She threw a really good game and did a really good job keeping us off balance. We just couldn’t come through [Wednesday].”
Jenna Goodrich (12-3) struck out four of the first eight batters through two scoreless innings but ran into trouble in the third.
Creekside (29-2) scored its two runs on four hits in the inning, capped by Victoria Daddis’ two-out bloop single into left. Jordan Roberts — the No. 8 hitter — led off the inning with a first-pitch double to right. Heritage perfectly executed the wheel play on McKenzie Agate’s sacrifice bunt, tagging the runner out going from second to third.
Jeanie Verderese singled through the hole at short, and Amanda McCullough bunted for a hit to load the bases with one out. When Colleen Darragh popped out to second on the first pitch, it looked like Goodrich would escape without any damage.
“It was a blooper hit,” said Goodrich, who struck out nine and gave up five hits. “Those happen. I wouldn’t say it was anything special. But it definitely leaves a bad taste in your mouth. You don’t want that to happen again.”
Heritage coach Marty Cooper said he couldn’t have his outfield play too shallow with deeper fences — exactly 220 feet from home — or else a ball over the players’ heads would clear the bases.
“I felt we could get out of it, but that’s the way fastpitch is,” Cooper said. “That mishit was the perfect hit at that time. There’s nothing you can do about it. The girl battled at the plate — we had a couple of strikes on her — she battled and muscled it into left field.”
During Cooper’s 10 years as coach, the program had never dropped a semifinal in five state appearances. Creekside lost in last season’s regional quarterfinals.
“I wish it could have come to a different end,” Goodrich said. “But you know, in order to succeed you’ve got to fail, and that’s going to be the motto for next year.”
WP: Rachel Pence (15-1). LP: Jenna Goodrich (12-3)