Softball: River Ridge falls to Lakewood Ranch
For almost a year, River Ridge had been waiting for the opportunity to avenge a humbling 10-0 loss to Bradenton Lakewood Ranch in last year’s Class 6A-Region 3 softball final.
The wait to avenge loss No. 2 to Lakewood Ranch will feel even longer for River Ridge’s returning players, as the Royal Knights spent the better part of Friday afternoon trying to figure out Mustangs pitcher Amanda Rak, who held them to seven hits.
Lakewood Ranch did it to River Ridge again and soundly defeated the Royal Knights 8-3 in the 6A-Region 3 final.
The game was played at 4 p.m., because Lakewood Ranch’s prom was held Friday night and both teams agreed to the earlier start.
“The kids weren’t going to give up,” River Ridge coach Ernie Beck said. “We hit the ball pretty well and (Lakewood Ranch) was able to make some plays. They made most of their scoring off of two outs. It was just one of those days. They were just the better team today.”
The good news for River Ridge is, next season it will be moved down in classification and likely will not see Lakewood Ranch again. The bad news is, the Royal Knights will be heading home one step short of reaching the state semifinals for the second consecutive season.
Lakewood Ranch (13-6) took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning, responding to River Ridge’s run to open the game. The Royal Knights seemed more loose the second time around vs. the Mustangs, but they were never able to string together enough hits to score in bunches. River Ridge (28-2) tied the game at 2 on a groundout that drove in freshman Anessa Holes.
For nearly three innings, both teams played tentatively, but Lakewood Ranch was able to find the hitting groove that has taken it to consecutive state semifinals. Taylor Newton blasted a home run to left field to start the bottom of the sixth inning, which led to three more runs, and the Mustangs never looked back.
“We won’t play Lakewood Ranch next year, so that’s the good news,” Beck said. “I told the girls, you worked all year long to get to this point and we’re going to have to work all year long again to get back to this point.”