CLERMONT — Somewhere behind the mirrored lenses of Courtney Riddle’s sunglasses were two eyes in search of something.
Maybe it was run support, better defense or perhaps a little more from herself?
The Lions could have used all those things in Monday afternoon’s 10-0 six-inning loss to Boca Raton Grandview Prep in the Class A state semifinals at the National Training Center.
The Lions allowed 12 hits, committed five errors and struggled to decipher Pride ace Jane Sallen, who finished with a complete-game 10-strikeout effort. Sallen kept the Lions off balance with a series of fastballs, rise curveballs and changeups that kept HCA batters guessing, often badly.
HCA coach Ernie Chatman said the Pride (22-6) was the best team the Lions (21-5) had faced.
“The middle of the lineup was exceptionally strong,” Chatman said. “They put the ball in play. Their pitcher, when you look at the whole mound presence …was probably the best pitcher we’ve faced this year.”
Being 10-run ruled in any game is disappointing, and on the grand stage of the state semifinals it could be shattering. The Lions, however, say reaching this point was notable after losing six players from last year’s final four team.
“I’m just happy to be back here again because I didn’t think we’d make it this far,” senior Audrey Allen said. “…This was an accomplishment in itself.”
Grandview Prep led 3-0 after three innings on runs by Taylor Russo, Casey Polak and Allie Catapano. Three more runs in the top of the fifth, including an RBI double by Kami Oberg, made it 6-0. The Pride was led by catcher Geena Capitini, who went 4-for-4 with two RBIs.
HCA, which had been limited to one hit to that point, got back-to-back singles from Audrey Allen and Holly Field. Both landed in scoring position, but the Lions could not cash in.
“I don’t think we ever gave up,” Chatman said. “I think we understood when it got to 6-0 it was going to be tough.”
Grandview Prep then scored four runs on three errors in the top of the sixth, which put the game out of reach. The Lions gained two more base runners in the sixth, but were again held scoreless.
“To have gotten to this point I’m still happy with what they’ve done,” Chatman said. “From beginning to end it was one where we had a lot of progress. The girls had a lot of enjoyment through the season. I was pleased with what they did.”
Izzy Gould can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 421-3886.