CLERMONT — Calvary Christian never seemed to doubt that it would win the Class 3A state softball title Thursday night over Hernando.
The Warriors felt great when they got up 3-0 in the first inning at Legends Way Ball Fields. And when the Leopards scored four in the top of the second to take a one-run lead, there still seemed to be no sense of panic among the Calvary clan.
After all, the Warriors had plenty of talent at their disposal and plenty of innings remaining to let that talent shine, none more so than freshman third baseman Morgen Talley, who came on in relief in the second inning and allowed no runs on five hits while striking out five.
With Talley throwing her smoke, Hernando never scored again.
Meanwhile at the plate, Talley went 1-for-3 while reaching base on a couple of errors. She ended up scoring three times after senior outfielder Elizabeth George followed her with a triple and two singles. George finished 3-for-3 on the night.
Final score: Calvary Christian 7, Hernando 4.
“I’ve told the girls over and over that hard work beats talent and you cannot just rely on talent,” Calvary Christian coach Dion Weaver said. “So yes, we have a lot of talent on this team, but the fact is, this whole team has worked so hard, day after day, and today their effort paid off.”
For Calvary (24-6) it marks the first state softball title for the school, but not the first for Talley, who along with Warriors starters Mackenzie Bergstrom, Payton Cushman and Irianis Garcia helped win the Class 2A state title at Canterbury a year ago.
Talley, a 6-plus footer who also helped the Warriors win the state volleyball title in the fall, did say that last year’s experience in the 2A final helped her feel more comfortable this time around.
“Being in this type of position a year ago and having the experience did help,” Talley said. “I feel blessed to be in this position again with such a great group of girls.”
Hernando (25-5) had lost to Calvary twice in the regular season (4-0 and 1-0) but felt buoyed after taking the second-inning lead. But, as was the case in the previous matchups, Talley and Co. proved to have just a little more firepower. Senior Solaris Genberg and junior Aryanna Eliopoulos led the Leopards with two RBIs each.
“(Talley) is a tremendous player and Calvary has a great overall team and we we knew what we were up against,” said Hernando coach Kevin Bittinger, who led his team to a Class 4A state title appearance last year. “But I thought we showed tremendous character. These are all Brooksville kids and they have shown tremendous heart. I couldn’t possibly be more proud of them.”