Moments after a recorded version of The Star-Spangled Banner played, the game it preceded was already over.
American Heritage junior Sydney Grobman, batting third, destroyed a pitch and sent the ball crashing into aluminum bleachers beyond the left-field fence.
Grobman’s three-run homer gave the Patriots all they needed — although they took plenty more — in a 12-2, mercy-rule shortened victory over Panama City Arnold in the Class 6A state championship game at Dodgertown.
The victory gives American Heritage and coach Marty Cooper a seventh state championship, which ranks as the most in Broward County and pulled into a tie for second-best in state history.
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The Patriots have won a state championship three times since 2012.
“It was really important to jump on top of them quickly,” said Grobman, whose blast fueled a five-run first inning for the Patriots before Arnold could record the first out of the day.
“It was an incredible feeling, and I was glad I was able to do that for my team, get us going from the start. I loved helping my team.”
Said Cooper: “Did you hear the sound it made coming off her bat?”
Saturday’s game was in stark contrast to last year, when Heritage was looking to repeat yet ran into a stingy Baker County team it couldn’t solve.
The Patriots were upset 1-0 in last year’s title game on a soft infield hit, and they weren’t going to let a similar outcome befall them Saturday as they came out swinging.
“When you come out real strong like that, it makes things a lot easier all around,” said Cooper, who has won all of the school’s softball titles in his 13 seasons there.
“If you do make mistakes, it makes it easier to cover up. The momentum was on our side, but I knew that team — they had been down in the semifinal — could come back. I don’t feel 100 percent comfortable until the final out.”
The Patriots’ bats were certainly humming on Saturday. They scored multiple runs in each of its first three innings and had enough to enact the 10-run mercy rule by the top of the third.
The game continued, however, as a team needs a 15-run lead after three innings and Heritage led by only 12. The Patriots didn’t score again but it didn’t really matter.
“There was definitely extra padding and extra comfort,” said senior pitcher Madison Canby, who gave up three hits en route to winning her third title.
“We knew no matter what happened the team behind me was going to provide the outs we needed.”
Arnold ran into a much more experienced team and program as Heritage was making its fifth consecutive trip to the state finals.
The Marlins won their first district title this year and had never advanced this far.
On Saturday, the inexperience showed as the Patriots — usually led by Canby — didn’t need much pitching on this day.
With Hannah Sipos and Brooke Langston on, Grobman hammered a pitch over the left-field fence, the ball bouncing high off the bleachers. Jordyn Griffith and Maya Rodriguez later scored on a single from Marisa Soterakis.
In the second, Griffith tripled in a run and then scored on a fielder’s choice. Heritage put up five in the third, two off a double from Griffith.
Arnold scored twice in the bottom of the third inning after getting nothing going in the first two innings, but the heavy damage had already been done.
The Marlins did get to Canby a bit in the third and had runners on with two outs in the fifth before Canby got a fly ball to right to end the game.
The American Heritage players tossed their gloves into the air and piled onto one another on the infield to kick off the celebration.
“We knew we had to come back from last year when we came up a little short,” said Canby, who has been with the Patriots since 2012 and is headed to Columbia University in the fall.
“We came with a lot of energy and were ready for this game. We knew we were going to get it.”