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River Ridge blazes to tourney title game

Ernie Beck said his River Ridge High softball team came out smoking last weekend in the Bloodhound Diamond Classic. And the fire didn't burn out until the championship game.

The Royal Knights routed Lake Gibson 17-3 in the first round and thendispatched Class 6A powers West Orange and Miami Palmetto before falling to Winter Haven in the championship game.

Tiffany Martin pitched 20 innings in the first three games, striking out 31, but did not pitch in the championship because of a sore arm. Martin went the distance in a 2-1, nine-inning victory over Palmetto in the semifinals.

With Martin exhausted, Beck went with freshman Erin Derkavics, and she went the distance in the 3-0 loss to Winter Haven. The runs were unearned.

"Erin did a great job," Beck said. "But that nine-inning game just took a lot out of us. The girls were just wore out."

Still, Beck was pleased that the Knights advanced to the championship.

"We came out smoking and just pounded the ball," Beck said. "The we knocked of two Class 6A schools that have very good programs. We didn't have enough to win but it is still great to come in second in a tournament like this."

Ridgewood and Hudson also competed in the 16-team tournament and each went 2-2.

River Ridge needed just five innings to defeat Lake Gibson, as Kenna Rogers went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs. Martin struck out 12 batter in four innings, and Rogers pitched the fifth.

In the quarterfinals, River Ridge took a 2-0 lead over West Orange in the second inning and held on for a 2-1 victory. West Orange is the state's third-ranked Class 6A team.

The Knights scored in the second when Autumn Lynch hit a bloop single, went to second on a passed ball and came home on Brooke Jones' single. Lynch beat the centerfielder's throw to the plate and when the catcher tried to get Jones at second, the throw was errant and rolled to the fence and Jones scored.

River Ridge took a 1-0 lead over Palmetto in the first inning of the semifinal game and won it in the bottom of the ninth. That's when River Ridge loaded the bases with two outs and Lundy Pixton hit a liner to right field. The rightfielder appeared to make the play, but the ball fell out of her club to allow the winning run.

"That was a great game," Beck said. "And it had quite and ending."

The Knights scored in the first when Sarah Tarnowski's sacrifice fly scored Leah Plummer, who singled. Palmetto tied the game in the sixth. Martin pitched all nine innings and struck out seven.

Beck was forced to use Derkavics in the championship because Rogers, the Knights' stellar No. 2 pitcher, had to return home because of a previous commitment. The 3-0 loss to Winter Haven was the first time River Ridge was shut out this season.

River Ridge defeated Zephyrhills 5-2 Tuesday, as Rogers earned the win. The victory improved the Knights to 14-2. River Ridge was rated eighth in this week's Class 5A state poll.

Ridgewood won two straight in the Bloodhound tournament before rebounding for two wins Saturday. The Rams defeated Southwest Miami 7-2 and Pasco 8-1. Missy Tipton got the win over Southwest, and Jenn Molby got the win over Pasco.

Ridgewood (10-5) opened with losses to Miami Gulliver and Auburndale, but coach Marlyn Bavetta was happy with the way her team came back.

"On Saturday, we played good defense and started hitting like we are capable of," Bavetta said. "We got a lot out of this tournament. We learned a lot on Friday."

Ridgewood next hosts its Rams Invitational April 4-5.

Hudson (8-8) also dropped its first two before rebounding. The Cobras defeated Lake Gibson 3-1 and Zephyrhills 11-4 after opening with losses to Winter Haven and Southwest.

Hudson and Winter Haven were tied 0-0 before the Red Devils broke the game open in the sixth.

"I'm real happy with the way we played against Winter Haven," said Cobras coach Linda McQuade. "And I was really pleased that we could come back and won two-straight games."

Hudson will be in tournament action again this weekend in the 12-team Dunedin Spring Invitational. The Cobras open Friday against Pinellas Park.

LAND O'LAKES: All Jerry English's squad has been able to do is practice the past 10 days. The Gators have not played since March 17 as key games last Thursday with River Ridge and Tuesday with Ridgewood were rained out.

The Gators play host to Mechanicsville, Ohio, on Wednesday before playing in the Lake Region Invitational April 4-5.

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