The Ponte Vedra Lady Sharks softball team ended its season in thrilling although bittersweet fashion this past week during the Class 6A regional playoffs, when they split a pair of extra inning games.
After finishing as district runner-up – the result of a 6-0 loss to Clay on a no-hitter in the title game – the Sharks rebounded with a 4-3 quarterfinal win over Paxon only to have to face the Blue Devils again in the regional semi-final round. The Sharks, in what had to be their best effort of the season, shocked the Blue Devils 2-0 scoring twice in the eighth inning. The win earned them a spot in the regional finals against Arnold where the excitement became even more intense.
The Sharks fell behind Arnold 4-1 after the first inning then surrendered another run to the Marlins in the fifth. Ponte Vedra came to bat in the seventh inning facing what appeared to be an embarrassing 5-1 end of the season loss. But the game is never over until the last out is made and the Marlins would have trouble getting that final out in the seventh.
Abby Zitello beat out an infield single to deep short. Then Kiley Hennessey drew a walk and Lauren Struble lined a base hit to left loading the bases. Next up was freshman shortstop Michelle Leone whose first inning leadoff home run gave the Sharks a brief 1-0 advantage. This time Leone went yard again, over the centerfield fence to tie the game at 5-5.
Neither team could put a run across over the next four extra innings although Ponte Vedra’s Farley Callaghan barely missed a home run when her blast to center bounced high off the top of the fence for a double.
The twelfth inning marked the end of the Sharks' magnificent run when the Marlins’ Miranda Smith smacked her second round-tripper of the game, sending the Sharks home.
Ponte Vedra’s earlier 2-0 win over Clay showed the grit and determination for which the Sharks were noted. Freshman pitcher Michelle Holder worked eight scoreless innings but was at her best in the seventh when the Blue Devils threatened to bounce the Sharks for the fourth time this year. Clay used a pair of hits to put runners on second and third with one out. Holder struck out the next Blue Devil then issued an intentional walk to the next to load the bases. With the game and the season on the line, Holder struck out the next batter, her fifth K of the game.
Ponte Vedra won the game, scoring twice in the top of the eighth using a Leone single, Quinlan Richmond’s line drive triple and Callaghan’s RBI base hit.