For St. Thomas Aquinas’ softball seniors, Friday was prom night.
While they danced, the Raiders’ underclassmen made it a championship night on the softball diamond at Silver Lakes Park.
Junior second baseman Jillian Healy belted a three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning and sophomore pitcher Brooke Stock pitched her way out of a jam in the seventh to help Aquinas seal a 5-4 comeback win over Cooper City in the inaugural BCAA Big 8 softball tournament championship.
“We needed to show that it wasn’t all about the seniors on this team,” Healy said. “It’s good because we scrimmage a lot in practice so we’re ready for situations like this.”
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Six Aquinas senior starters including regular starting pitcher Meghan King were attending the school’s prom Friday night.
But Stock, Healy and several other Raiders picked up the slack on a team that has been ranked among the nation’s best this season.
“I think [Cooper City] thought they had it in the bag with our seniors gone, but we proved them wrong,” Healy said. “At St. Thomas, it’s a team effort.”
The Raiders (23-2) suffered their first two losses of the season last week, first against Plantation American Heritage and later in the finals of the Kissimmee Klassic. But Aquinas bounced back with a strong performance in the Big 8 tournament capped by Friday’s rally.
Healy’s blast cleared the left-field fence after Brianna Stella singled and Thais Gonzalez walked to open the inning.
Stock took over pitching duties in the sixth inning after Cooper City left fielder Paige Lokeinsky hit a two-run home run to left field off freshman starter Olivia Saviskas to give the Cowboys (17-5) a 4-2 lead.
Saviskas had kept Cooper City in check for the first four innings, but ran into some trouble in the fifth, giving up two runs on a solo homer to Lindsay Gehring and later walking in a run after loading the bases.
Stock faced another bases-loaded situation with two outs in the seventh and the game on the line. Stock struck out Cowboys shortstop Megan Isoba to end the game.
Aquinas scored first and took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning. With runners on first and third, Saviskas executed a perfect squeeze bunt to score Gonzalez with the Raiders’ first run. Stock later hit a sacrifice fly ball to drive in another run.
“These kids were so nervous during those first few innings, but once we made something happen, they relaxed,” Baucom said. “These girls can play, too, that’s why they’re on varsity. I couldn’t be happier right now.”
CC 000 022 0 – 4 8 1
STA 000 200 3 – 5 4 0
WP: Brooke Stock. LP: Kara Lokeinsky.