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 [email protected] 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. College basketball scandal dips into Tampa Bay

    Preps

    Tuesday's national college basketball scandal has recruiting ties to Tampa Bay.

    In this March 15, 2012, file photo, San Diego State assistant coach Tony Bland, left, talks during NCAA college basketball practice in Columbus, Ohio. Bland was identified in court papers, and is among 10 people facing federal charges in Manhattan federal court, Tuesday in a wide probe of fraud and corruption in the NCAA, authorities said. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File]
  2. Lightning's Brayden Point could be perfect fit alongside Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov

    Lightning Strikes

    SUNRISE — Brayden Point ended last season as the Lightning's No. 1 center, thrust into the role as a rookie due to injuries.

    Lightning center Brayden Point (21) advances the puck through the neutral zone during Friday's preseason game against the Nashville Predators. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  3. For starters: Rays at Yankees, with Blake Snell starting, Wilson Ramos cashing in

    Blogs

    The Rays open their final road series of the season tonight at Yankee Stadium, which is also where they played their first of the season.

    LHP Blake Snell will be on the mound for the Rays, looking to continue his successful late-season run, in which he is 4-0, 2,57 over his last eight starts.

    Tonight marks Wilson Ramos' 55th start of the season.
  4. Cannon Fodder podcast: Considering Gerald McCoy's comments

    Bucs

    Greg Auman talks about Gerald McCoy's comments — both about fan criticism online and Donald Trump — in the latest episode of our Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Gerald McCoy, front, said Monday that he would love to have a conversation with any of the fans who take to social media to criticize him and his Bucs teammates. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. Alex Volkov with a top-six showcase for Lightning

    Blogs

    Alex Volkov entered Lightning camp a bit of an unknown, the second-round pick from Russia in his first NHL camp.

    Alex Volkov (79) works to stop Florida Panthers center Denis Malgin (62) during the second period of Sunday's game in Tampa.