With one out in the top of the seventh, Baker County’s Brandie Callaway connected on a Jenna Goodrich delivery and sent a soft shot through the infield.
The ball skipped through the large hole between American Heritage’s shortstop and second baseman, finally snared by left fielder Jendayi Wright.
It might not have looked like much, but Callaway’s single was not only the biggest hit of the year for Baker County but also was probably the most important in program history.
Callaway’s hit sent Tori Richardson racing home from second and led Baker County to a 1-0 upset of state power American Heritage in the Class 5A title game.
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“I just reacted to the ball, went with the pitch,” Callaway said. “I knew it was big, saw Tori come around and score. I knew it would be a close finish but in this game, it was tough to score.’’
The Patriots were going for their seventh championship, which would have tied them for second all time. Instead, they finish their season 25-2-1 after losing at the state tournament for only the second time in eight trips under coach Marty Cooper.
Baker County, in north Florida along the Georgia border not far from Jacksonville, won its first championship after going 24-4.
“One play here or one hit there was going to be the difference, and we just didn’t get it,’’ said Cooper, whose team was trying to win its second consecutive title. “They made the plays they needed to make and someone got the hit they needed in the clutch.’’
With Goodrich and Macy Jackson locked in a pitching duel, the first run was likely going to win it. The Wildcats scored it.
Heritage had its chances and had runners at first and second in the bottom of the sixth, but Jackson got the Wildcats out of it with ground out and strike out.
With one out in the top of the seventh, Richardson was hit by a pitch then moved to second on a wild pitch.
Callaway then sent the bouncing ground ball through the infield with the swift Richardson never slowing down. Goodrich got the next two outs, but the damage was done.
This year’s final was a stark contrast to last year when the Patriots fell behind 10-2 only to come back and beat Belleview 11-10 in the highest-scoring championship game in state history.
“After last year, I always think we have a chance,’’ Goodrich said. “I believe in these girls with all my heart. “
In the bottom of the frame, the Patriots had no answer with Jackson putting them down in order. American Heritage was held to four runs at the state tournament, with all of them coming on Goodrich’s grand slam in Wednesday’s semifinal win over Boca Ciega.
“We had runners in scoring position and had more opportunities than they did. We just didn’t capitalize,’’ Cooper said. “Their pitcher got us to pop up, fly out and not move players across the plate.
“I’m very proud of my kids, we put pressure on them all night long. We just didn’t finish. We didn’t finish it off.’’
BC 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 — 1 5 3
AH 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 3 2
WP: Macy Jackson (15-2); LP: Jenna Goodrich (15-1). BC 24-4, AH 25-2-1.