LUTZ – As Steinbrenner coach Colleen Sanders huddled with her team at the end of the Class 7A-District 9 tournament final on April 19, her message for the future was simple: We’re in it to win it.
Despite keeping the No. 1 seeded Chamberlain offense on ice throughout most of the game, the No. 3 Steinbrenner softball team didn’t have many answers either, falling 2-0.
“I think we got runners on base and we definitely had our opportunities,” Sanders said. “I really don’t know what happened.”
The costly mistakes from the Warriors (17-7) came early as a pair of runs in the first inning would jumpstart an already red hot Chamberlain offense.
The Chiefs (22-7) opened up the frame as LSU signee Bianka Bell smacked a single to right field to get her team into the hit column. Then after Zalonzia Canady popped out to third base, Lindsey Hagberg ripped another single down the middle for two runners on and one out.
Steinbrenner sophomore pitcher Kellee Ramsey (12-7, 3.10 ERA) continued to feel the heat when she walked Ellen Scott on five pitches to load the bases. The mistake would cost Ramsey a pair of runs when Kelly Smith followed through with a two RBI single to center field.
“(Ramsey) was very confident coming in,” Sanders said. “I think that win (against Freedom) gave her a lot of confidence. … I know we gave up two runs in the first inning, but I think she stayed very strong.”
In the third inning, the Warriors would finally break onto the scoreboard to cut their deficit to one.
With Erin Knoeppel on first thanks to a leadoff walk, Erica Serafini hit a ground ball to the second baseman who in turn tried to turn a double play, but dropped the ball. The umpires originally called Knoeppel safe, however after an argument was made the decision was reversed. Serafini, who reached on the fielder’s choice, stole second base allowing senior Kaylee Ferrell to drive her in with an RBI single to right field for her squad’s only score of the night.
Throughout the next five innings, Steinbrenner would move multiple runners into scoring position. However Chiefs pitcher Rachel Dwyer, who gave up five hits, struck out two and walked three batters, wouldn’t flinch and prevented the Warriors from scoring.
“We had runners on, but we didn’t get those timely hits that we needed,” Sanders said. “All of our girls have the potential and we have strong bats. We just needed to come through at those times when we had runners in scoring position and we didn’t do it.”
Steinbrenner would make an attempt at a rally in the seventh inning, as Knoeppel got on base with a two out bunt single down the third base line. However, the magic was short lived as Paige Cimino grounded out to end the game.
The Warriors did advance to the postseason for the second time in the program’s three year history with their 2-0 win over No. 2 seed Freedom in the district semi-final on April 18.
Ramsey came close to her third no-hitter of the season in the contest, but was it was broken up in the sixth inning with a base hit. The Patriots would attempt to stage a comeback in the seventh inning, but ended it with a double play on an attempted squeeze bunt popped up to third baseman Taylor Morrow, who in turn fired the ball to catcher Alia Serafini to finish it.
The No. 4 seed Wiregrass Ranch got past No. 5 Gaither in the play-in game on April 17, but couldn’t muster a win against the Chiefs in the semi-final, falling 12-2 in five innings.
Even though her team couldn’t hoist the championship trophy for the second time, Sanders said she is looking forward to the next round and knows her team is ready.
“It really does feel good,” Sanders said. “This is a brand new program and it feels very nice to have started this program and I think it is definitely coming around over the last three years. I think we’re getting established and I think people think they need to look out for us.”
Steinbrenner will travel to Countryside on Wednesday, April 25 for its regional quarterfinal game.
–All stats as recorded to Maxpreps.com by coaches