Pirates punch ticket to state tournament

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Pirates punch ticket to state tournament

By Barron Demons

During conference play-in games against rivals Northwest Florida State College (NWFSC) and Gulf Coast State College (GCSC), the Pirates went undefeated and secured a spot in the state tournament.

With the number one seed secured by Chipola College, there was a race for the number two seed and a spot to play in the Division One, Florida College System Activities Association (FCSAA) Softball State Tournament.

The Pirates traveled to Panama City on April 20 to take on NWFSC. The winner would advance to play GCSC in a best-of-three game series.

PSC dominated NWFSC in the single-elimination game and shut out the Raiders 5-0. Shelby Griffin pitched a complete game only surrendering two hits. The Pirates cruised to victory and stared into the face of GCSC who cracked a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) top five national ranking in the beginning of the season.

Shelby Thornsberry celebrates after making a diving catch during a play-in game vs. Gulf Coast State College. (Photo by Barron Demons)

Immediately following the shutout over the Raiders, PSC unleashed their batting power against GCSC.

The Pirates combined for 17 hits and outlasted the Commodores 8-6. Alexis Guzman, Natalie Sorensen, Kaeleen Koehler, Madison Marshall, Shelby Thornsberry and Danielle de Ruiter each had a run batted in (RBI). Savannah Foster pitched a complete game and finished with an astonishing 10 strikeouts to secure the victory for PSC.

The Pirates remained focused, and their strength showed in the second game on April 21, as complacency never settled into the minds of the Lady Pirates.

With the bases loaded in the second inning and Natalie Sorensen up to bat, she found her pitch and unloaded a fierce swing, sending the ball towering over the center fielder’s head and over the fence for a grand slam. The Pirates took a 4-0 lead and never looked back.

In the same inning, on the defensive side of the ball, Lia Johnson made a spectacular over the shoulder catch for the Pirates to end the inning as GCSC threatened to score. The Commodores eventually found their rhythm and got on the board in the fourth inning, making the score 4-2.

Kaeleen Koehler was sent in as the new pitcher and shut out GCSC in the fifth and sixth inning.

The seventh inning emerged, and the Commodores had one final chance to secure a spot in the state tournament to save their season.

The Commodores were able to across another run in the seventh making the score 4-3. With two outs obtained, Koehler threw a connecting pitch, but Thornsberry made a diving catch to capture the third out.

“That play had a lot of heart in it,” sophomore Alexandra Verardi said.

The spectacular catch was the final out, and the Pirates gathered on the field to celebrate that they officially secured a spot to make a run for a state championship.

“I wouldn’t say it was my best catch, but it was definitely my most clutch,” Thornsberry said.

The Pirates won’t change their approach for the state tournament games and will look to continue where they left off. The team is eager to continue their winning streak and prove they can compete with the best.

“I think we would all like to get there and prove something, but honestly just with us being there, it has already been proven,” Thornsberry said.

The Lady Pirates are currently on a three-game winning streak, but they now have the mindset that they will be chasing a state and even possibly a NJCAA National Championship.