What a day that was!
Twenty-two hours and one minute. Not even an entire day. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t seem like much time. For most of us it’s just another day where not much out of the ordinary happens. But for the Catawba Ridge HS athletics program, that span of time will live on for a lifetime in the memories of those who were there. Twenty-two hours and one minute: What a day that was!
Starting at 10:05 pm on Thurs, May 25th and ending at 8:06 pm the next day, May 26th, The Ridge produced two SCHSL 2023 4A state champions, the first team sports championships in the school’s short history. First, on Thursday evening at South Florence HS, the Copperheads softball team completed a 2-game sweep of South Florence with a 10-7 win over the Bruins to clinch the school’s first team title.
The following day, the baseball team beat North Myrtle Beach HS in the 3rd game of the series to take the baseball championship. The final in that game was 7-3.
Both games followed a similar script. Both started out as back-and-forth affairs with the teams trading leads into the middle innings. Then both teams had a break-out inning late in the game that propelled them both to the wins.
Softball Sweeps South Florence
For the softball game, South Florence bounced back after going down 2-0 after the Copperheads first at-bat, by scoring two of their own in the bottom half of the first inning. South Florence then went on top, 3-2. The Copperheads tied it at 3-3. The Bruins then led again at 4-3. In the top of the 4th inning, Catawba Ridge scored two runs to lead again at 5-4. That’s where it stayed until the top of the 6th when the Copperheads broke the game open with a 4-run outburst that put them up 9-4.
South Florence did not quit, though, and came back with three runs in the bottom of the sixth to make it 9-7. In the top of the 7th, pinch-hitter Ally Testerman hit a one-out triple and was later driven in by Jaidyn Harris to give them their last run, making it 10-7. In the bottom of the 7th, with a runner on first and two outs on the board, Copperheads pitcher Chloe Burger fittingly struck out the Bruins batter and the celebration erupted around the pitcher’s circle.
Baseball Wins Decisive Third Game vs North Myrtle Beach
In the baseball game it was much the same: North Myrtle Beach took a 2-0 in the first inning. The Ridge boys tied it at 2-2 in the second inning. Two Copperhead errors in the 3rd inning allowed the Chiefs to get back in front, 3-2. In their half of the 3rd, Catawba Ridge took the lead again at 4-3. From there, things were quiet until the bottom of the 5th inning. There, the Copperheads scored three runs to take a 7-3 lead, which was the final score of the game.
Starting pitcher Jake McCoy, and the rest of the defense, settled down after the early inning mistakes and kept the Chiefs off the scoreboard after the third inning. Relief pitcher Caden Glauber came in to close it out in the 7th inning, coaxing a ground-out for the final out of the game. Gloves and hats sailed into the air as the team gathered near second base. As the team celebrated, I had a sense of deja vu all over again as I tried to capture the excitement of the moment.
As the celebration in the infield wound down there was a nice moment when head softball coach Michael Kidd came out to congratulate head baseball coach Stas Swerdzewski. The two met at the first base line, exchanging a big handshake and hug. Each knew they and their teams had accomplished something extraordinary in South Carolina high school athletics. SCHSL 2023 4A State Champions sure has a nice ring to it.
Amazing Play Spurs Softball Team
The softball team was playing in its second consecutive state championship series. Last year they faced North Augusta and were swept by the Yellow Jackets, losing Game 2 at home. That disappointment fueled them as they set out on the 2023 season. They finished the season 25-3-1 overall, 10-0 in region play. After realignment went into effect this year, North Augusta moved from the Lower State to the Upper State bracket. This brought the two teams together again, but this time it was for the Upper State championship. And this year, the Copperheads returned the favor, sweeping aside the Yellow Jackets in two games.
This series produced one of the great moments of the entire playoff round. The Copperheads struck first with what seemed like a death blow in the first inning. The Ridge girls sent everyone to the plate. When the dust settled, they had a 9-0 lead before the capacity crowd was settled into their seats. But they were unable to get any more offense going the rest of the way. Meanwhile, North Augusta didn’t give up. As the innings went by, the Yellow Jacket batters began taking advantage of pitcher Chloe Burger as she struggled with her control. It was apparent during the game that her pitching arm was bothering her in some way. I asked her about that, wondering if it was just fatigue or something else.
“I think it (fatigue) had something to do with it. I would definitely say it affected my control, because I didn’t have a good game, basically the whole playoffs.” she said. She also reported a subsequent trip to the doctor did not reveal any major issues, aside from some tendinitis.
And so as the bottom of the 7th began, the Copperheads were clinging to a 9-8 lead with just three more outs needed to win. Chloe was struggling but determined to finish the game. She was able to get the first two batters out. But she left a pitch in the zone for the third hitter, who smashed the ball into deep left-center field. I had my camera trained on Chloe to get her reaction-celebration on the third out (I was hoping for a strikeout) so I didn’t really see what happened next. I did get a photo of Chloe, though, her head down and eyes closed, as if she knew she had just given up the game-tying homerun.
But when she looked out, expecting to see the ball sailing over the fence, she saw something entirely different; center fielder Sarah Rocheleau racing to her right, leaping from a full-out sprint to catch the ball before it went over the fence then slamming into the fence and falling to the ground. The mood went from dejection to jubilation in an instant as the entire team poured into the outfield to celebrate. The highlight reel play was indicative of why Sarah was named SC 4A Player of the Year. It also renewed Chloe’s confidence to know her team would pick her up when she needed it. That confidence helped propel them through to become SCHSL 2023 4A state champions.
Don’t Forget Senior Portraits!
Summer is here! If you have a rising Senior (Class of 2024), then it’s time to think about Senior portraits. In case you didn’t know, this is my specialty, besides shooting sports action. When I can combine the two, sports and portraits, I’m in my happy place! I have a session specifically for athletes: I like to call it ‘Sportraits‘. This session is all about the athlete and his/her sport. Grab the uniforms, the gear, the balls and we’ll spend some time on their field or court creating some awesome sports-themed portraits. Below are some good examples of these types of portraits. So check out the page on my senior portrait sessions and let me know if you have any questions!