Saturday, November 18, 2017
Sports

State softball: Seniors come through for Palm Harbor University

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VERO BEACH — On the three-hour trip to Historic Dodgertown, Palm Harbor University's players watched a 15-minute video compilation of former Hurricane standouts who offered their congratulations.

This year's team is full of sophomores who were just out of diapers when PHU last won a state title in 2005.

Lost in this influx of youth was a group of seniors — Jada Radecki, Taylor Scott, Bailey Wilson — who helped keep the Hurricanes double their win total from last season and become state title contenders.

Those three also were the difference in Friday's 1-0 win over Jupiter in the 9A state semifinals.

Radecki was 2-for-3 and scored the winning run in the sixth inning. Bailey was 2-for-3 and had the winning hit that brought home Radecki. Scott pitched a four-hit shutout and had seven strikeouts.

Palm Harbor University (29-2), which has won 16 straight, faces defending champion Winter Park West Orange in the championship.

"It was great to have the seniors come through the way they did," Hurricanes coach Kerry Katchuk said.

Radecki entered the program three years ago with only Little League experience and batting right-handed. The coaching staff turned her into a left-handed slap hitter.

On Friday, she had a pair of singles, the last in the sixth inning that led to the winning run.

Scott and Wilson are best friends who have been playing softball together since they were 6 years old.

Scott, a North Florida commit, is usually not a pitcher. She became one for PHU only because the team needed one.

Not just a pitcher but an ace.

In four postseason games, Scott has allowed just one run.

But Scott deflects any praise.

"Everyone filled their role," she said. "They cheered loudly throughout the game. The defense was great. There were no errors. It was an all-around effort."

Wilson has started all four years. She has been stellar at shortstop and has a knack for timely hits. On Friday, she had a double in the second inning for the team's first hit and the winning single that floated over the shortstop's glove in the sixth.

"It's exciting," Wilson said. "I've never been in something like this yet and for it to be my senior is just overwhelming."

The Hurricanes are ranked eighth overall in the state by MaxPreps. Still, Katchuk said his team will be an underdog in the final. West Orange is 27-3 and ranked seventh overall by MaxPreps. The Warriors beat Miami Palmetto 11-0 in the other semi.

"Palm Harbor University is a special place to play because the kids pay it forward," Katchuk said. "These kids look at those state banners every day and we tell them all the time they're not as good as the 2005 team.

"They keep telling me they are. They love the challenge. The final will be a mountain for us to climb, but I've counted these girls out before and they never seem to bow down."

     
     
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