FLORENCE – Catawba Ridge head softball coach Michael Kidd choked back tears telling his team how proud he was of them after they made history Thursday night winning the 4A state championship.
The Copperheads beat South Florence 10-7 to sweep the championship series in a back-and-forth contest. The state title was the first team state title in school history for Catawba Ridge and the team finished the season at 26-3.
Catawba Ridge pitcher Chloe Burger bounced back in game two after struggling some in game one. Burger pitched a complete game and clinched the state title on a strikeout, but she gave her team all the credit. Burger admitted after the game she has been dealing with pain in her arm.
“I know my team has my back,” she said. “I am so happy. There couldn’t be a better feeling.”
The Copperheads came out swinging and stuck first scoring in the top of the first on an RBI single from Braylon Lawrence scoring Sarah Rocheleau. Lawrence would go 2-4 with three RBIs in the game and Rocheleau went 2-5 at the plate.
South Florence started just as strong scoring two in the bottom of the inning off a Catawba Ridge error.
The Bruins started by reaching base on a walk and a hit before the error occurred.
Catawba Ridge tied the game in the second with a run from pinch runner Ally Testerman on the help of a passed ball. Audrey Wilson then drove in a run scoring Jaidyn Harris to give them the lead.
Uncharacteristic errors continued to plague the Copperheads in the game as the Bruins again threatened with runners on the corners and no outs. A fielder’s choice allowed a run to score to tie the game.
South Florence kept their foot on the gas going back on top with three singles in the bottom of the third.
A throwing error by South Florence allowed Jenna Gardener, who singled, to score after a failed pickoff attempt. Another single by Rocheleau put the Copperheads back on top scoring Kyrsten Reynolds to make it 5-4 in the top of the fourth.
One thing that aided both Burger and the Copperheads were four errors from the Bruins through six innings.
Wilson ripped an RBI double in the sixth inning to score Harris, who reached on an error. Rocheleau reached on the second error of the inning and then Kendra Murray doubled in Wilson extending the Copperheads lead. Wilson went 3-3 in the game with two RBIs saying she admittedly had struggle hitting at times this season.
“We all had a lot of confidence coming in here,” Wilson said. “I have worked hard the past two weeks to get into a rhythm. We knew we need to have her back. Chloe is really important to us.”
The hitting then became contagious as Lawrence doubled in two more runs to make it 9-4 with only one out in the sixth.
“Once they got a run, they didn’t let up,” Kidd said. “Last year wasn’t what we wanted. I just told them to stay within ourselves. We have been a good team all year. They just had to trust the process.”
Kidd becomes just the second head coach in Fort Mill School District history to win state championships with two different local high schools (Melissa Halstengard, boys swimming, Fort Mill 2006 and Nation Ford 2008).
The Bruins didn’t roll over as they came back in the bottom of the inning and loaded the bases with one out after two walks and a single. South Florence added one to their total on a sacrifice and then scored two more on a two-run single by pitcher Payton Perry.
Burger was able to bounce back and get out of the inning without too much damage being inflicted.
The Copperheads came back in the seventh adding a run as Testerman started things off with a triple. She would be driven in by Harris to cap off the Catawba Ridge offense.
Mac Banks: firstname.lastname@example.org, @fortprep