State softball | Class 7A Championship: St. Thomas Aquinas 1, Harmony 0

King, Aquinas win back-to-back state titles

 

grichards@MiamiHerald.com

Last year, it took St. Thomas Aquinas nine innings to get the run it needed to beat Harmony at the state tournament.

On Saturday, the Raiders got that run in the first inning.

Same score, same end result.

Aquinas took its early lead and watched Meghan King hold onto it as the Raiders won the Class 7A state softball title for a second year in a row after beating Harmony 1-0.

"The first run really gave me confidence for the rest of the game,'' said King, who shut out the Longhorns in consecutive years.

Last year's 1-0 victory came in the semifinals, something Harmony definitely remembered. Aquinas noticed Harmony's chatter regarding them making Saturday's win just a touch sweeter.

"I wouldn't have wanted to play another team for the state championship,'' King said. "As soon as we heard it, it pumped us up.''

Last year, King gave up three hits and struck out five against Harmony.

On Saturday, the Maryland-bound ace was dominating in tossing a one-hitter and striking out 12.

Harmony led off with an infield single and didn't do anything else. The Longhorns had just one runner move past first and didn't have a single baserunner for the final six innings.

"I couldn't be happier. We knew it was going to be a pitchers' duel,'' said Aquinas coach Bryan Baucom, whose program has won its four state titles since 2002. The Raiders end the year 30-2.

"I'm a nervous wreck, but when [King] got out of the first and went into the second, she turned it up a notch. She was like 'no one else is getting on.' And she did it. It was a pleasure to watch. I was just counting outs. I kept saying we needed another run because you never know in a state championship game. But she just shut them down.''

Harmony ace Aleshia Ocasio was just as good with a one-hit, nine strikeout day. But her first inning was costly after King got out of what could have been an early jam.

The Longhorns (28-3) led off the game with a lead off single from Lily Mann, but she was forced out at second on a grounder to King for the first out. King struck out the final two batters.

In the bottom of the inning, Aquinas' Brianna Stella led off with a walk and stole second. With two outs, Rachel Collins laced a single down the right field line and Stella never slowed down. She rounded third and scored.

"I wanted to score,'' Stella said, "wanted to win this game.''

Added Baucom: "We had to gamble. We had to get that run. If not, we're probably still playing just like last year.''

And that was the ball game.

Aquinas, like Harmony, didn't have another base runner the rest of the day. Unlike the Longhorns, Aquinas didn't really need one.

"We knew we would have to face them for the championship,'' Collins said. "I had an opportunity and made the most of it.''

Harmony -- 000 -- 000 -- 0 -- -- 0 -- 1 -- 0

Aquinas -- 100 -- 000 -- x ---- 1 -- 1 -- 0

WP: Meghan King (20-2); LP: Aleshia Ocasio (24-3). Records: STA 30-2, Harm 28-3.

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