OCALA-- The College of Central Florida softball team won the program's first-ever FCSAA State Softball Championship after defeating NJCAA No. 1 and defending state champions Florida Southwestern State College 6-3 on Saturday afternoon in Orlando.
FCSAA No. 3 Lady Patriots ended FSW's 26-game win streak after defeating the Bucs 6-3 in the state championship match. CF got out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning off a lead-off home run from freshman third baseman Devyn Howard. FSW responded with three run in the top of the second to take the lead, but it was all CF from there. The Lady Patriots went on to plate three runs in the fourth inning to pull ahead 4-3 and add two more insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth to secure CF's first-ever softball state championship.
Howard finished the game 2-for-3 at the plate with a home run and a triple, while sophomores Gretchen Ebert (1-for-3, RBI) and Bailey Wilson (1-for-2, 2 RBI) backed Howard in the win. In the circle, Mid-Florida Conference Pitcher of the Year Kelsie Rivers tossed a complete game, allowing just three runs on nine hits and struck out six in the win.
To get to the championship game, the Patriots had to go through Eastern Florida State and FCSAA No. 2 Chipola College.
In the opener, CF defeated EFSC 11-3 in five innings. The Lady Patriots fell behind 3-1 after 2.5 innings of play, but responded in a big way, driving in 10 unanswered runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings to complete the run-rule. Ebert had a 5 RBI day, while sophomores Tiffany Steczo (home run) and Maggie Trgo each drove in two runs.
Onto the semifinals marched the Patriots.
Two of the top teams in the state in nation squared off for a chance to punch a ticket to the finals.
After four complete innings, CF and Chipola were all tied up at 3. In the fifth, Howard led off with a solo homer to left field to break the stale mate. Four batters later, sophomore infielder Elaina Lukas laid down a bases-loaded bunt to drive in two runs and put the Patriots ahead 6-3. The Indians countered with two runs of its own in the bottom half of the inning, but reliever Barbara Cook and the Patriot defense would go on to hold Chipola in the final two innings to solidify a spot in the finals.
The Patriots now head to St. George, Utah for the NJCAA Div. I Softball Championships that kickoff May 22. This is the second trip to the national tournament under head coach Kevin Fagan. Fagan led CF to the national tournament in his inaugural coaching season after finishing runner-up to Tallahassee in the 2014 state championship. In 2014, Fagan led his squad to a national runner-up finish in the 2014 NJCAA finals after falling to Angelina College.