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Hitting just an afterthought for Ridgewood

After leading off the second inning with a walk, Ridgewood junior Corey Paterson stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and, finally, scored on a fielding error.

In terms of microcosms, Paterson's trip around the bases was a perfect one.

Despite tallying just three hits Wednesday, Ridgewood earned a spot in the championship game of the Tom Varn Invitational by putting 14 runners on base and small-balling its way to a 6-1 victory over Hernando.

"We were just putting things together that were there for us," Paterson said, "taking what we could take advantage of."

A young Hernando team gave them plenty of opportunities to do just that. Ridgewood's first four runs came in part because of Leopard errors. By the end of the second inning, the Rams had built a 4-1 lead without getting a hit.

"Our philosophy, for 23 years has always been pitching, defense and base-running," Ridgewood coach Larry Beets said. "Hitting is last."

Hernando finished with five errors, and on plenty of other occasions managed to, as Leopards coach Tim Sims put it, "shoot both feet off."

Perhaps the biggest play of the game came in the fourth inning. With runners on first and second and no outs, Hernando's Mike Devary hit a single into leftfield, but James Everson was thrown out in a close play at third.

Instead of having bases loaded with one out and the top of the order up, Hernando had two on with two outs, and leadoff hitter Blake Hunter struck out to end the threat.

"That was a key play in the game," Sims said. "There are always three plays in a game that you can look back on that end up being difference makers. Their left-fielder made a heck of a play."

Ridgewood advanced to the championship game of the Tom Varn Invitational for the third consecutive year. Last year, the Rams lost to East Lake. This year, they will face either Springstead or Gulf on Friday for the title.

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