They received their runner-up medals and trophy, fought back tears, and did their best to deal with the pain of having a state championship dream ripped away.
Here in Clermont on the final Saturday of May, the Pace Patriots chasing the program’s first softball title in nearly two decades, a storybook ending wasn’t in the cards for a team that made it its mission to finish the year on top of the 6A softball world.
Shelby McKenzie took a breath. Locked in. And swung her bat.
What resulted was a three-run home run to center that, while not the official ‘game over’ moment for Pace, it was the turning point for the Patriots in their 6A state semifinal showdown with Land O’ Lakes Friday at the Legends Way Ball Fields in Clermont.
Pace is back in the state final four for the third consecutive year and aims to move one step closer to winning its first championship in nearly two decades.
The Patriots take on Land O’ Lakes Friday at 11 a.m. Eastern Standard Time in a 6A semifinal at the Legends Way Ball Fields in Clermont.
Ava Grace Wheaton was hoping to be a state champion again in the javelin. She nearly pulled it off May 20 at the University of North Florida’s Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville.
In the end, it didn’t happen, and yet, finishing as the runner-up wasn’t a bad way to close out a high school track career for the Pace standout.
Lexi (Worrell) Alexander and her dad, Danny Worrell, sit in their chairs inside the Pace dugout and watch the action unfold on the field.
The top-ranked Patriots are taking on Hagerty in a 6A softball regional final on a Friday night in late May. The two coaches are encouraging the players throughout the game to be at their best.
There is a banner on the outfield fence that highlights the state championship Jay won a year ago in softball.
There are also banners that note the district, regional and state final four trips the Royals have made over the years, but no three-year stretch has been more impressive program then the one that ended last week.
The dream of a repeat as state champions for Jay’s softball team came to an end early Monday afternoon in Clermont.
A scoreless battle most of the way, Branford scored twice in the sixth and held off a seventh-inning rally attempt by the Royals to secure a 2-1 win in a 1A state semifinal at the Legends Way Ball Fields.