VERO BEACH -- At this level of softball, one run is often an insurmountable deficit.
That sure wasn’t the case for American Heritage on Saturday night.
Down eight runs early, the Patriots got things together and rallied for an 11-10 victory over Belleville to win the Class 5A state championship at Dodgertown.
The Patriots, who beat the Rattlers for their previous title three years ago, trailed 5-0 after the first inning and 8-0 after the second. Yet almost three hours after the game began, the Patriots were state champs.
“They came out and put a lot of pressure on us, hit a lot of balls in the first few innings,” said coach Marty Cooper, who picked up his 500th career win Saturday.
“I figured if we could just stop what they were doing, we might have a chance to battle back. I know our team is able to battle back. Fortunately we put a stop to it in the third and started scoring some runs.”
Heritage (25-6) came into the fourth down seven, but scored five runs to get back into the game. Down one coming into the seventh, the Patriots got a game-tying RBI double from Lauren Newmark before Jenna Goodrich’s suicide squeeze bunt scored pinch-runner Emily Rini from third with the game-winning run.
Things got so bad in the first inning that Cooper pulled Goodrich with two outs after the Rattlers scored their first four.
“It was almost like a football game, a tale of two halves,” said Cooper, who has won six state titles since 2002 at the school.
Goodrich eventually came back into the game and picked up the win after shutting Belleview down from the top of the fifth on.
“The pitcher always gets blamed,” Cooper said. “We made five errors in the first. They were hitting the ball and I had to pull my pitcher for getting ground balls. We just weren’t making the plays.”
Added Goodrich: “You have to stay calm, cool and collected and I would say that’s been my motto all season. … My team was there when I needed them. I’m glad we were able to pull it through. I’ve always dreamed of this moment. It was a great feeling.”
The Patriots trailed 10-3 going into the fourth but got five runs off five hits. Melissa Rini had a bases-loaded single to score two runs before Sydney Grobman, Jessie Brown and D’kota Cassady also drove in runs.
Heritage didn’t score again in the fifth but added one in the sixth to pull within one when Brooke Langston came home on one of Belleview’s nine errors.
That set up an exciting final inning, one that started with Ashley Belans grounding out.
With one out, Gianna Arrizurieta reached on an error and raced home on Newmark’s big double. Newmark crushed a pitch from Jamie Adams over the head of left fielder Heather Hinerman.
Newmark was welcomed back into the exuberant dugout with the score tied and pinch-runner Emily Rini headed to second. Emily Rini made it to third when Melissa Rini reached on an error before racing home when Goodrich put down a perfect bunt.
“I had to make sure it was down,” Goodrich said. “I knew our runner at third was fast. That was everything.”
Broward County sent four teams to the state finals with St. Thomas Aquinas (Class 7A), Pines Charter (6A) and Heritage all winning championships. Cypress Bay was knocked out in the Class 6A semifinals.
Belleview -- 532 -- 000 -- 0 -- -- 10 -- 11 -- 9
Heritage -- 021 -- 501 -- 2 -- -- 11 -- 15 -- 4
WP: Jenna Goodrich (13-2); LP: Jamie Adams (20-4). Records: AH 25-6; Belle 26-6.