Catawba Ridge head softball coach Michael Kidd believes his young team has set the foundation for future Copperheads to come.
The program’s future is strong, he said.
The Copperheads fell to North Augusta 8-0 in Wednesday’s game two of the best-of-3 Class 4A state championship series at Catawba Ridge High. Following North Augusta’s 4-0 home win in game one on Tuesday, the Yellow Jackets followed up with a dominant game two performance in Fort Mill to seal the state title on the road.
Kidd said he was proud of his team, made up mostly of underclassmen and a single senior.
“It’s been a fantastic season,” he said. “We did all we could, and we made it to state championship. You can’t ask for more than that. It’s been a hell of a season.”
North Augusta pitcher Katelyn Cochran, a University of Central Florida commit, finished with 11 strikeouts, giving up just one hit and a couple walks through seven innings of action.
The Yellow Jacket’s batters found plenty of connection, and pitcher Chloe Burger gave up two home runs. She struck out five through seven innings as well.
The North Augusta offense came alive in the top of the third inning when Audri Bates smacked a two-run homer over the center-left field wall. Two batters later, Haidyn Hutton’s RBI double to the same spot scored Neveah Ross to give the Yellow Jackets a 3-0 lead.
By the end of the third inning, Cochran was cooking and had tallied her fifth strikeout of the night.
The visitors added two more runs in the fourth inning. Reilly Howell scored from second base after a throwing error. Leanne Gilbert touched home plate on a sacrifice fly when Annabel Hurst flied out.
Catawba Ridge’s Audrey Wilson hit a double in the bottom of the fourth inning that spoiled Cochran’s attempt at a no-hitter. It was Wilson’s 100th hit of her Catawba Ridge career. But the moment came and went when Sarah Rocheleau ground out and Kendra Murray flew out to end the inning.
North Augusta added two more runs in the seventh inning. Gilbert scored on a passed ball, while Tigert scored on a sacrifice fly. Kadence Adams also smacked a solo homer to deep left field to give North Augusta its 8-0 lead.
Catawba Ridge ends its season with a 26-6 record, a program best. In the program’s third year, the team secured a region title and an Upper State championship to make the state title series, defeating the likes of Westwood, Westside, Greenwood, Easley and York along the way.
“I don’t think we’re setting the foundation,” Kidd said. “I think we’ve already set it up. We’ve got our cleats dug in. The girls have played in the big games. The foundation has been set.”
Janelle Ilacqua, Catawba Ridge’s lone senior, said she was glad that she and her teammates gave it all they could.
She said she was looking forward to the young team getting even better next year, and potentially being back in the state championship series sooner than later.
“Next year, I don’t think there’ll be a team to beat them,” Ilacqua said. “They’ll really be set up to be the best. This is my school. I want them to be as good as I was. I’ll be cheering them on for a long time. We’re a family here.”
Both Kidd and Ilacqua praised the packed home crowd that came out to watch the team throughout the season and especially during Wednesday’s game two. Kidd said the capacity crowd “meant the world to these girls.”
“We have the best crowd out of anywhere I’ve ever seen,” Ilacqua said. “The community does so much to support us, even after losing (game one), they didn’t care, they came out to support us.”