Catawba Ridge’s magical postseason run continues – the next stop will be the Class 4A state championship series.
The Copperheads defeated the visiting York Cougars 7-2 Friday evening in front of a packed and boisterous home crowd to win the Upper State championship and earn a spot in the best-of-3 state title series May 23-27 against the Lower State champion, either North Augusta or Hartsville.
Catawba Ridge pitcher Chloe Burger paced her team with 10 strikeouts, her fielders helped along the way, and the Copperhead batters showed out with a five-run third inning that broke the deadlock.
“This feels amazing,” said Copperheads head coach Michael Kidd. “Every game we’ve played has been a team effort. It’ll mean everything for them. I want them to experience this. They’ve worked hard all year. I expect us to compete hard.”
Senior Janelle Ilacqua opened the scoring in the third when she brought home Georgia Burford on a scoring single. Braylon Lawrence turned a bunt into a double, thanks to quick running by Ilacqua that made it 2-0 to the Copperheads.
Sarah Rocheleau doubled the Catawba Ridge lead to 4-0 with a two-run double to right centerfield. And Kendra Murray soon added another run with her hit down the right field line.
The home team padded the lead to 7-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning when Lawrence smacked a two-run double to deep left field.
York got on the scoreboard with a Marisa Reyes two-run double in the top of the fifth inning, but Burger stopped the bleeding with back-to-back strikeouts.
Burger avoided a rough start to the game. She faced a bases-loaded situation with no outs in the top of the second inning, but recovered to strike out a batter and force the next two up into weak groundouts, helping preserve the early shutout.
By the time the sophomore secured her 10th strikeout of the evening, the final out of the game, her teammates busted open the door to the dugout and streamed onto the field to celebrate.
“It was a lot,” Burger said. “Nerves and everything. I was just so happy when everyone started cheering. We’re a young team, and we’ve shown a lot of grit. We’re gonna go out and try to win as a team.”
In the program’s third year, Kidd’s Catawba Ridge softball team, now 26-4, is headed to the state title series. The Copperheads have gone undefeated so far in the playoffs, dispatching Westwood, Westside, Greenwood, Easley, and now York in their quest to a state title.
“I’m glad to see the support for the girls,” Kidd said. “These are the things they’ll remember.”