Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

State softball preview: With renewed confidence, Hernando Christian returns to final four

Hernando Christian’s Courtney Riddle, an eighth-grader, leads the pitching staff with a 0.82 earned run average and the offense with a .449 average with 22 RBIs.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Hernando Christian’s Courtney Riddle, an eighth-grader, leads the pitching staff with a 0.82 earned run average and the offense with a .449 average with 22 RBIs.

BROOKSVILLE

There were days none of the 13 players believed they would be shagging fly balls in the soupy heat of May. After all, Hernando Christian reached the final four last season, then lost six starters for various reasons. The first indicator this might not be the Lions' year was a horrendous preseason tournament, which included a 22-2 loss to Tampa Catholic. Then something changed. Relationships evolved, and the casual "hello" in the hallways turned into true friendships in the dugout. The Lions got to know each other, they bonded, and as trust strengthened so did HCA's play.

The Lions (20-5) have won 15 of their last 16 games, and are headed to consecutive final fours with plenty of reason to believe this dominance could continue for seasons to come.

Behind it all is Hernando County icon Ernie Chatman, who seems to exceed the competition in everything he has ever accomplished. The 60-year-old can teach baseball, referee basketball and seems to clobber his fair share of competing runners in various races across the country.

"The expectations were less," Chatman said of the season. "It certainly looked like it might be different, and (the wins have) kind of rolled. They've gotten better. They've learned to play together and count on each other."

It comes as little surprise his ace, eighth-grader Courtney Riddle, credits Chatman with turning her into the clutch player she is today.

Chatman, as it turns out, coached Riddle's father, David, as a baseball player. And about three years ago Courtney decided she wanted Chatman to teach her how to pitch. So she asked her father to smooth the path.

"She got a lot of experience last year," Chatman said. "She's pretty much played year-round. She's pitched well, and the girls have confidence in her, that's important."

Riddle has been stellar this season with a 0.82 ERA over 1272/3 innings, 157 strikeouts and a 17-4 record. Offensively, she leads the Lions in almost every category, including her .449 batting average. Riddle has 31 hits, 22 RBIs, 10 doubles, four triples and 28 runs scored.

"She has the ability to make a pitch in a tough situation when people can't make that pitch," Chatman said. "Why? I don't know. She likes to play and has a lot of support from home. The experience she's gained has been a real factor because she's put in a lot of pressure situations."

Credit Riddle's character.

Ask a specific question about her performance and she offers a veteran answer that is sure to give credit to her teammates. And they deserve it. As she points out, she couldn't do it alone.

"We didn't think we'd be as good as we've been," Riddle said. "… I owe a lot to my team. They play great defense behind me and always keep me in games. Without them, we wouldn't be having the success we're having this year."

Offensively, she has received plenty of support from players such as Audrey Allen, Ashley McKay, Holly Field, Briana Hogan and Alicia Field. They've also been rather sound on defense, limiting opponents to just 75 runs.

Regardless of what happens Monday at noon when the Lions face Boca Raton Grandview Prep (21-6) in a Class A state semifinal in Clermont, the foundation has been laid down for the next two seasons, and possibly more.

"It's great," Riddle said. "We have two seniors, five sophomores, one seventh-grader, a freshman and three eighth-graders. We're in good shape."

Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@sptimes.com or (813) 421-3886.

. Up next

State final four

National Training Center, Clermont

Class A semifinals: Hernando Christian vs. Boca Raton Grandview Prep, noon; Canterbury vs. Jacksonville Eagle's View, 7 p.m., Monday

Final: 4 p.m., Tuesday

Admission: $8; Parking: $5

State softball preview: With renewed confidence, Hernando Christian returns to final four 05/08/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 8, 2010 9:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. For starters: Rays at Twins, with Cobb pitching with a purpose

    Blogs

    UPDATE, 12:34: Cash said he has been pleased with Sucre's work and is trying to find playing time for him. ... Cash also said after reading Farquhar's comments about having trouble re-focusing after getting out of a jam and then going back out for a second inning he will factor that in to how he uses him. ... …

  2. St. Petersburg's Sebastien Bourdais vows to return for IndyCar finale

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Sebastien Bourdais was in one of the best race cars he'd ever had, so fast that most of his competitors thought he would win the pole for the Indianapolis 500.

    Sebastien Bourdais does physical therapy at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana in Indianapolis. Bourdais broke his pelvis, hip and two ribs in an accident during qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 on May 20. He plans to return home to St. Petersburg soon to continue therapy. [Associated Press]
  3. Yellow cards stall Rowdies offense in tie with St. Louis

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — It's not the result they wanted, but it certainly could have been worse. Neill Collins' 87th-minute header off a corner kick was the reward the Rowdies settled for Saturday night during a 1-1 draw with St. Louis before an announced 6,068 at Al Lang Stadium.

  4. Calvary Christian routs Pensacola Catholic to win state baseball title

    Baseballpreps

    FORT MYERS — Calvary Christian left no doubt as to which baseball team in Class 4A was the best in Florida this season. The Warriors defeated Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium to claim the school's first state championship in any team sport. It also solidified a 30-0 season. …

    Matheu Nelson celebrates after scoring on a wild pitch during the first inning, when Calvary Christian took a 6-0 lead.
  5. Numerous lapses add up to frustrating Rays loss to Twins

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — While the Rays made some good defensive plays, threw a couple of big pitches when they needed to and got a few, and just a few, key hits, there were some obvious things they did wrong that led to them losing Saturday's game to the Twins 5-3:

    Rays reliever Tommy Hunter says the Twins’ tiebreaking homer came on a pitch that was “close to where I wanted it.”