This scenario is all too familiar for the Jay Royals, who have now finished as state runner up in three of the past four years.
Despite an excellent season, and a thrilling win in the 1A state semifinals, Jay’s state championship push was ended with a 3-2 loss to Chiefland in extra innings.
The stage provided everything one would expect from a state championship game — two great teams caught in a thrilling battle.
What will likely stand out in Jay’s memory is the fact that the team wasn’t at its best, and there was nothing the Royals could do about it.
“We just played our guts out,” Jay coach Brian Watson said. “Our girls are hurt and sick, some have been battling the flu in the hotel, and we had one break her hand last week. I’m just proud of them. I hate that it happened like that.”
The Royals struck first in the state final, plated a late run to tie the game and got out of a high-pressure jam in the bottom of the seventh inning to extend the game to overtime.
With that momentum, the Royals opened the top of the eighth with an explosive desire to win.
Kolby Bray led off with an infield hit, and pushed herself to another gear as she sprinted for a single.
Two batters later, Riana Wolfe matched Bray’s single to put runners on first and second base.
Next, an additional infield hit was rocketed at Chiefland’s third baseman Tataneisha Barnes, who showed high-skill when she scooped up the ball, made the tag on Bray and threw the out at first to turn a double play and bring the Chiefs up to bat.
“We had a lot of chances, they made defensive plays when they had to,” Watson said. “That’s what happens when you have two great teams playing. I just really hate it for my girls. We had a great season, just ran out of bullets at the end of the last inning.”
Like Jay, the Indians led off the eighth with a single from Takiya London.
On the next pitch, the athletic shortstop hurried to steal second base.
With one out and two batters later, Samantha Rolfe connected for a hit as London hustled home to beat the throw and capture an FHSAA 1A state title for the Indians.
“I thought I was out when I hit it,” London said. “Once I got on, I knew I was going to run and steal second. We needed a run then (in that inning) to win this.”
Chiefland’s win marked consecutive 1A state titles for the Indians, a feat which no sports team has accomplished in Chiefland’s history, according to coach Wayne Weatherford.
FHSAA 1A state final
At Historic Dodgertown (Vero Beach)
Chiefland 3, Jay 2
JAY…001 001 00 — 2 10 3
CHFL…000 200 0 1 — 3 8 2
WP: Lauren Stalvey 8IP, 10H, 2R, ER, BB, 3K. LP: Dana Blackmon 7.2 IP, 8H, 3R, ER, BB, 4K.
Jay hitters — Dana Blackmon 2-4; Emily Dobson 1-3, R; Destiny Herring 2-4, RBI; Riana Wolfe 2-3; Megan Mulford R; Harley Tagert 1-4; Samantha Steadham 1-4; Kolby Bray 1-3.
Chiefland hitters — Emily Hallman 2-4, R; Tataneisha Barnes 1-4, R; Takiya London 1-4, R.