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American Heritage International : Ponte Vedra sluggers at heart of run to Class 6A softball semifinals

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05/18/2017 | 12:09pm CEST

Scotland David is right handed - until she puts a softball bat in her hands.

She morphs from the easy-to-smile freshman outfielder into a speedy slapper who is almost impossible to retire. David is the leadoff hitter and table-setter for a Ponte Vedra offense that features enough pyrotechnics to come with a warning label.


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"We don't treat it as 'You're the beginning of the lineup. You have this job,'" David said. "Everyone has the same job and responsibility. We practice a lot of hitting. Most of our practices consist of hitting."

The Sharks (21-7) advanced to Friday morning's Class 6A state semifinal in Vero Beach largely due to an offense that has overwhelmed teams in the postseason. Ponte Vedra will be facing another offensive juggernaut when it faces Plantation American Heritage (24-3) in the state semifinals for the second time in four years.

"I'm not trying to hit it over, or get a triple or double. It's just to get a single, get on base and I know my teammates will hit me in," said David, possessor of a .598 on-base percentage this spring.

David is hitting .531 this year, has stolen 16 bases and scored 47 runs.

The Oklahoma State commitment's combination of speed and bat control has flummoxed opponents all season long. For that, she has former Creekside softball coach Tim Knowles to thank. Three years ago, while playing for a club softball team, Knowles encouraged David to become a slap hitter.

David and the Sharks played Creekside on April 18 - she went 3 for 3 with two RBI and a run scored - but Knowles missed the game due to an illness. The Creekside win was sandwiched between losses to Bartram Trail and Atlantic Coast in the last 10 days of the regular season.

Ponte Vedra assistant coach Gordie Rolison said Tuesday that seeing Bartram Trail'sNicole Masanko and Atlantic Coast'sTaylor Bauman down the stretch prepared the Sharks offensively for what they will see from American Heritage senior pitcher Olivia Saviskas.

American Heritage may be the reigning state champion, but the Sharks, arguably, have an offense that is second to none.

Quinlan Richmond sat on the bleachers adjacent to the visitor's dugout at Shark Park adjusting something when she asked aloud what her batting average was on the season. She was as surprised as anyone to hear it's .506.

"It doesn't feel real," Richmond said. "It's so exciting because no one thought we would be here by the end of the season. We've come a long way in a short period of time."

Richmond is one of the ringleaders. The junior outfielder joked that at one point in her freshman season, she was told she had a .077 batting average. Ponte Vedra's left fielder can laugh about it now because she leads the Sharks with 10 doubles and is second on the squad with 31 RBI and 29 runs scored.

In the postseason, Richmond has hit 9 for 17 with eight RBI and five runs scored. She is far from the only Shark who has scalded the softball in the postseason.

As a whole, the Sharks are hitting .578 in the regional playoffs and averaged 13 runs a game in wins over Terry Parker, Ridgeview and Pensacola West Florida Tech.

What makes the Sharks such a formidable bunch is there are no easy outs in the lineup. No. 9 hitter Michelle Holder leads the team with 34 RBI. David has enough speed and bat control to turn an infield single into a de-facto extra base hit, and the middle of the lineup features two underclassmen – Kiley Hennessey (.446) and Bailey Wagoner (.438) – who are hitting well above .400.

"There is not a single girl on the team that when there are two outs, I'm going to get my glove," explained outfielder, and Florida Gulf Coast commitment, Farley Callaghan.

If Callaghan is going to grab a glove, it will be her batting glove. Ponte Vedra has scored 10 or more runs 13 times this season.

Callaghan is the cleanup hitter who sports a robust .380 batting average. With David, Penn State commitment Michelle Leone and Richmond usually hitting ahead of her, Callaghan has rarely lacked an opportunity to drive in a run.

"In practice, we work on all aspects of hitting," said Leone, a sophomore shortstop who has been a mainstay since she arrived on campus. "Off the tee, high (pitches), low pitches and outside, we make sure to stay disciplined at the plate and that we are swinging at our pitch instead of pitches outside the strike zone."

Friday will be Ponte Vedra's third appearance in the state tournament in the school's nine-year history. On each occasion the Sharks have stumbled in the semifinals. What separates this team from its 2012 and 2014 squads is there are no holes in the batting order.

Considering the Sharks are the visitors, they will have a chance to show that immediately. David will be the first person to dig into the batter's box at Historic Dodgertown on Friday.

"I will be nervous, for sure," David admitted. "Every game, Michelle (Leone) and I make goals, so I'll try to do our goal. Normally, it's to get on in our first at-bat and go 4 for 4."

If that happens, the Sharks will be well on their way toward swimming past the state semifinals for the first time.

© Copyright, 2017, The St. Augustine Record, All Rights Reserved., source Newspapers

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