With the success young Courtney Riddle has enjoyed over the past year, it wouldn't be surprising if she had a big ego to go along with her talent.
That couldn't be further from the truth for the young ace. Courtney, 12, was the top starting pitcher for Hernando Christian Academy this past season, leading the Lions to their first-ever state semifinal appearance as the only starting seventh-grader on the roster.
With the high school season over, Courtney now focuses her attention toward improving her game and contributing to her other two organizations: the Odessa Outrage 96 and the Hernando Youth League.
The Outrage is a competitive travel club Courtney uses to play top-notch talent throughout the summer and her experiences there helped her advancement on the mound.
"As the competition gets better with high school and travel ball, she's had to learn to pitch as opposed to going out there and trying to throw the ball by people," said David Riddle, her father and HYL coach. "She's had to learn the craft more."
As for HYL, she found a true calling with this club. Named to the HYL Dixie All-Stars in June, Courtney had the privilege of leading the Ponytails Division pitching staff into the district and state tournaments.
Regardless of the honors she receives, no one is more intent on shifting the focus to her teammates and deflecting attention than Courtney. The answer to every question points toward a team effort and how she couldn't reach the level she has without help.
After winning the District 6 title last month, the HYL Ponytails had high hopes for the state tournament this week. Courtney, and teammate Tana McDaniel, were to stand out throughout the tourney. Tana caught for Courtney and also pitched herself, tossing a one-hit 2-0 shutout against Spring Hill Dixie in the state quarterfinal.
Not to be outdone, Courtney went to the mound for the state semifinal against Hardee County Dixie with only one thing in mind: a spot in the championship game. HYL pushed across a run in the first inning, and it was all she would need. Courtney pitched a no-hitter to advance to the Florida Dixie Ponytails championship.
"(Courtney) was really motivated to pitch good during that game because last year Hardee sent us home," McDaniel said. "She wanted to send them home this time."
HYL was set to play Belleview Dixie, the only team to defeat them in the tourney. Belleview was dominant again, beating HYL 9-3 at Tom Varn Park in Brooksville to end the host team's World Series hopes.
With all of this success, it's hard to believe Courtney began playing organized softball just three years ago and pitching just two years ago. Thanks to support from her father and her school coach, Ernie Chatman, she continues to improve by leaps and bounds.
After bursting on the scene for HCA a few months ago, it became obvious she doesn't thrive on the newfound spotlight.
"I like it better when it's the team getting the attention because it's not about me," Courtney said. "It's a team sport and not a one-person show."
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