CLERMONT — Minutes after the biggest win of his life, veteran East Bay coach Glenn Rodriguez was saturated from his shirt to his tear ducts.
Nervous perspiration, a celebratory ice water shower and the sight of his ailing dad were the culprits. C.R. Rodriguez, a widower hindered by a stroke these days, hadn't been to an Indians game in more than a dozen years.
He picked the perfect one with which to end that streak.
Junior catcher Sierra "C.C." Rock's two-run double in the sixth and right-hander Kayla Cox's 18 strikeouts lifted the Indians (24-7-1) to a 2-0 triumph against Niceville (24-4) in the Class 5A state title game before roughly 300 at the National Training Center.
Rodriguez's lone regret: The attendance wasn't 301.
"I'd go over there to (my parents' house) to check up on 'em all the time, and we'd always talk about winning a state championship," said Rodriguez, who lost his mom three years ago. "I just wish I had my mom here because that's all we ever talked about."
Joining C.R. in the stands on a breezy Thursday night was a throng heavy with East Bay boosters, including 47 football players who brought a charter bus over with their coaching staff. All the players were in their game jerseys to see the Indians capture the school's first team state title.
Perhaps they sensed what the Indians did months ago: This was the softball team's year.
"I knew in their heart, even in my heart, this was the team," said Rodriguez, whose only previous state semifinal berth came in 2001. "If we didn't win it, it wasn't going to be for a while."
Buoying that belief was Cox, a North Carolina State signee who struck out the first six hitters she faced and escaped bases-loaded jams in the fifth and seventh with strikeouts.
Niceville's final threat was set up by two singles and an error. But with two outs, Cox got No. 2 batter Shannon Brinkley to swing futilely at a high inside curve. Cox (18-1-1) threw her black glove to the ground and leaped jubilantly as teammates converged.
"It just felt amazing," said Cox, who struck out 12 in the semifinals. "I just felt like God took hold of me that last whole inning."
Similarly, Rock said she felt a celestial clasp in the sixth. Hitless in the state tournament to that point, Rock was instructed by Rodriguez to simply slap the ball with pinch-runner Kiara Burrows and Nina Caisse on third and first, respectively.
She then smashed a double to left-center.
"I went up to the plate, and I'm like, 'Lord, please, I know I'm due,' " Rock said. " 'Give me that extra power.' "
It was one of five hits, two by junior Nicole Kennedy, for the Indians, who committed one error in the state tournament.
"I couldn't have won without that hit and (the defense)," Cox said. "So I think it's well known now that we had a great team this year."