FPC's late run spoils Matanzas' senior night

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It wasn’t quite the storybook ending for seven senior Matanzas softball players on Friday night. 
The Lady Pirates were in search of their first win in school history against Flagler Palm Coast. But with the tying run at third and the winning run at the plate, Christina Reynolds struck out for the final out on a curveball from FPC pitcher Anna Hardy.

It wasn’t easy, but the Lady Bulldogs maintained its perfect record in the in-county matchup, edging out the Lady Pirates, 4-3, and spoiling Matanzas’ Senior Night.

“It’s a really tough loss for the team and me,” Matanzas coach Sara Novak said. “Even though it’s not a district game and really just counts as a good practice game, it’s always nice to beat FPC in the in-county rivalry.”

FPC (10-9) got on the board early.

Destiny Kelly and Sam Mittel nailed back-to-back doubles to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Mittel then scored on a Matanzas error to give FPC a 2-0 lead.

Matanzas (12-9) was able to get the bases loaded with one out in the bottom half of the first, but Hardy struck out two in a row to get out of the inning with no damage.

Mittel knocked in her second RBI of the game to give FPC a 3-0 lead in the top of the third.

The Lady Pirates’ bats came alive again in the bottom of the third inning, when they scored three runs to tie the game. Marisa Magnuson, Morgan Lambert and Christina Reynolds all had an RBI.

From there, Hardy and Matanzas starting pitcher Amber Johnson battled in a pitcher’s duel until the seventh inning.

FPC leadoff hitter Alicia Smith led off the top of the seventh with a single. Kelly moved her over to second base on a sacrifice bunt. Then Mittel hit a dribbler and was thrown out at first, but Smith advanced to third. Matanzas tried to throw Smith out at third, but the ball skipped into left field, and Smith crossed the plate for the go-ahead run.

In the bottom of the seventh, Gabrielle Prickett led off the inning with a bloop single, but she was thrown out trying to take second base.

With two outs, Lambert smoked a ball into the right-center field gap for a triple, but Reynolds couldn’t drive in the tying run.

Hardy and Johnson both battled in the pitcher’s circle. Hardy allowed nine hits, three runs (one earned), no walks and seven strikeouts.

Johnson allowed seven hits and three runs (two earned) to go with two walks and seven strikeouts.

“We executed when we needed to,” FPC coach Ed Beckett said after the game. “We could have executed a little more earlier on, but you’ll take what you can get.”

For Beckett, health is the biggest concern right now.

“We had 12 players at practice (last Wednesday) between varsity and JV,” he said. “We just need to get healthy.”

Key players who didn’t play Friday against Matanzas include Gabby Maynard, Breanna Blackledge and Courtney Williams.

FPC will be the No. 3 seed in the District 1-8A tournament, which begins next week. The Lady Bulldogs will play at Mandarin. 

Meanwhile, Matanzas will be the No. 2 seed in the District 4-5A tournament. Similar to last year, Matanzas will play Pedro Menendez in the semifinals. A win would put them in the district title game against either Ponte Vedra or Nease.

But on Friday night, Novak said, it was all about recognizing the seniors. Having the fireworks show after the game showed how close her team is.

“It was truly a special night because these seven seniors have been with me on varsity since their freshman or sophomore year,” Novak said. “Not many coaches get to experience a team for four years that stays together like this, and I am extremely proud to be their coach.”


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