CLASS 4A: River Ridge falls 2-1 in final after being one out from avenging last year's loss.
By STEVE LEE
Published May 16, 2003
TAMPA - River Ridge had been there before, in every way but one.
The opponent in Thursday's Class 4A state final was the same, as was the result. Another one-run loss to Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas at the same place, the Ed Radice Sports Complex.
And for good measure, the defending state champion won again in its final at-bat as the home team.
But this year's state final was different. River Ridge (28-4) had a lead for six innings.
One out away from what could have been the second softball state title by a Pasco County team (Ridgewood won in 1992), the Knights' good fortune ran out.
A two-out, two-run double with River Ridge clinging to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh gave the Raiders a 2-1 win. And just like last year, the outcome came down to a play at the plate.
With runners at first and second, Charisse Mariconda doubled to right-center with centerfielder Stephanie Seaman fielding the ball and firing it toward home. Laquisha Pierre-Louis crossed the plate before Nikki Nicosia barreled into catcher Mandy Udovich, dislodging the ball.
Pierre-Louis and Mariconda also played key roles in last year's 1-0 loss to the Raiders (28-5), with Pierre-Louis scoring on Mariconda's bunt before Udovich could apply the tag.
"I just feel like I let the team down," Udovich said afterward, tears streaming down her cheeks.
Not hardly. Twice Udovich prevented a tying run before that fateful final play.
The senior catcher tagged out Mariconda on an inning-ending 8-2 double play thanks to a strong throw from Seaman in the fifth. In the seventh second baseman Meghan Chaple dropped a throw at first on Bonnie Heier's bunt but threw out Mallorie Horton at home, with Udovich applying a sweeping tag.
"They just came back and took it from us," River Ridge coach Ernie Beck said.
"I really wanted to play them again," said senior shortstop Stefanie Simon, who drove in the Knights' run with a two-out double in the first. "It was a chance for redemption.
"It's a horrible feeling."
Both teams had chances to score with two outs in the first, but River Ridge came through and St. Thomas Aquinas left two runners stranded when Kiki von Holt (20-4) struck out Sarah Callahan.
Udovich drew a two-out walk from Kristen Cefalu (14-3). Simon followed with a double down the leftfield line to score pinch-runner Jackie Linville.