Softball: Freedom makes state semis for first time
With the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the seventh, Freedom High senior Caroline Whiteside stepped to the plate with an opportunity to create history.
Down two strikes against Sarasota pitcher Clarissa Lynch, Whiteside, who was 1-for-3 on the day, walloped a pitch over the center-field fence for a grand slam, the first of her career, giving her Patriots a 5-1 lead and eventual win against the Sailors in the Class 7A-Region 3 final.
The victory allowed Freedom to advance to the state semifinals for the first time.
The Patriots will face either Winter Park Lake Howell or Tallahassee Chiles in the state semifinals in Vero Beach on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Chiles plays at Lake Howell today.
“It was a two-strike swing and I was trying to psych myself out saying, 'This is my pitch. This is where I hit best,'” Whiteside said. “And it seemed to work.”
Entering Saturday, Whiteside was 1-for-14 at the plate through Freedom's last five games and had just one extra-base hit all season.
“It's an awesome feeling knowing I can come through for my team,” Whiteside said. “I'm speechless right now.”
Trailing 1-0, Freedom (21-3) started the seventh with a double by sophomore Grace Street. An out later, Kayla Maczuga hit a single to move courtesy runner Patti Pellegrin to third. Junior Ashley Wilson then hit an RBI single down the third-base line to score Pellegrin and tie the game. Rachel Carlson followed with a single to load the bases, but Maczuga was thrown out at home on the next at-bat for the second out. Maddy Hall reached first on the second out on a fielder's choice to set Whiteside up for the grand slam.
“That was huge,” Freedom coach Autum Hernandez said. “She's been down a little bit on herself so it was huge for her to get that hit with bases loaded and two outs. I wasn't sure at first when she hit it because it was a little high, but I was ecstatic when I saw it went over.”
Katlin Hall (9-3) came in to pitch in the fifth inning to earn the win. In the bottom of the seventh, Hall forced two fly balls and sealed the win with a putout at first.
Sarasota (13-12) scored on an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth.
“We don't have one superstar,” Hernandez said. “We have 13 kids that work hard all day and play as a team.”