BROOKSVILLE — One season after the program notched its first playoff victory in school history, Hernando Christian is headed to its first Class A region final.
On the arm of starter Courtney Riddle, the Lions achieved that goal Friday with an 8-3 win over Lake Mary Prep.
Riddle tossed a one-hitter to get Hernando Christian (21-5) out of the first round, and although she didn't have that kind of magic this time around, she was strong when it mattered. Up 4-3 in the top of the sixth inning, the Griffins (22-6) had runners on second and third with no outs. The Lions ace proceeded to strike out the next two batters then get a ground out to end the inning.
"I just kept telling myself, 'I need to get through this,' " Riddle said. "Once it was over, I thought, 'Oh my gosh, I can't believe we did it.' "
The lead she maintained was safe thanks to solid offense from the middle of the Hernando Christian order. The Lions' Nos. 2 through 5 hitters went a combined 9-for-14 with all eight of the team's RBIs. Catcher Heidi Riley's two-run triple started HCA's scoring in the first inning, and she pushed across the third run after a sacrifice fly off the bat of third baseman Jackie Butler.
Only a seventh-grader, Riddle went the complete game and had six strikeouts and one walk, allowing two earned runs.
"She's been doing it all season, but you keep wondering to yourself whether or not this is the time when she won't be able to," HCA coach Ernie Chatman said.
"Thankfully, she pulled through again."