It wasn’t easy, but Trenton softball is moving on to the state championship game.
The Tigers (19-1), the top-ranked team in Class 1A, rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the fifth inning for a 3-2 win against MaxPreps’ No. 4 Branford in the state semifinals at Legends Way Ballfields in Clermont.
Florida Atlantic University signee Darian Ingram struck out 17 Branford batters, including all nine batters at least once. She struck out the side in the second and final inning, allowing just her second walk in the top of the seventh inning, which snapped a streak of nine in a row retired by Ingram.
“Darian continues to lead our team,” said Trenton softball coach Todd Bryant. “She keeps us in every game. We just need to score a few runs behind her.”
Despite her dominance in the circle, Ingram (17-1) ran into a little trouble in the fourth. After Ingram struck out the first two batters, Bucs’ senior shortstop Cera McElreth reached on an infield single with two outs.
The next batter, junior Joslyn Barrs, reached on a hit and an error in right field that scored McElreth and put Barrs on third base.
Up to 1-0, junior Evie Pitts laid down a bunt single to the left side of the infield that scored Barrs for a two-run lead.
However, the Bucs (15-5), who were playing in their first state semifinal in school history, would only have one baserunner the rest of the game against Ingram.
Trenton answered in the bottom of the fifth with three runs to grab a 3-2 lead.
With one out, senior Adrian Ingram, an FAU signee, put down a bunt single, then stole her 19th base of the season.
Stetson signee Keeli Zingaro was walked to put runners at first and second for the No. 3 hitter in the order, junior Shalyn Parrish, who had singled in the first.
Parrish laid down a bunt to pitcher Laila Arnold. But the 8th-grader slipped and fell as she threw wide of the bag at first base, which allowed Ingram to score on the play.
Two batters later, senior Lillian Wilkerson (Florida Gulf Coast University signee) delivered a clutch two-out, two-RBI single to center field for what would prove to be the game-winning hit.
“Our veterans have to step up for us to win tomorrow against Jay.” Bryant said. “Lillian Wilkerson got the big hit today when it counted. She tore her ACL in October and was back to play in April. That shows you her dedication.”
Trenton, which has won 56 of its last 57 games, will play Jay at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday for the Class 1A state title.
“Keeli Zingaro leads our team in RBIs and we need to give her opportunities tomorrow to do her job,” Bryant said. “Jay has some big strong hitters so keeping the ball in the yard will be important. Both teams’ pitchers threw complete games today so tomorrow will be a test of who can come back and do it again. Our kids have been here before and hopefully that gives us an edge.”
It’s the third time in the past four years that Trenton has played for the state title, which was vacated last year due to COVID-19. The Tigers lost to Wewahitchka in the 2018 state championship game and went 27-0 to win the 1A title in 2019.
Title game details:
Softball State Championship Game at Legends Way Ballfields in Clermont
Class 1A – Trenton vs. Jay, 4:30 p.m. Wednesday