• Peniel Baptist Academy’s Paige Bryan throws a pitch during her two-hitter against Jacksonville Christ's Church on Tuesday. (FRAN RUCHALSKI / Palatka Daily News)
  • Peniel's Kristen Flateau delivers a two-run double during a six-run second inning against Jacksonville Christ's Church. Flateau went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBI. (FRAN RUCHALSKI / Palatka Daily News)
  • Peniel Baptist Academy softball coach Jeff Hutchins gets a water bath, delivered by Peniel's Dylana Lynn (behind) and six-man football coach Jonathan Goodwin (right) after Peniel defeated Christ's Church, 12-2, in six innings for the Region 1-2A championship. (MARK BLUMENTHAL / Palatka Daily News)

Region 1-2A Softball Championship: Peniel Reaches Final Four

Six-run second inning sets stage for 12-2 rout of Christ’s Church; Land O’ Lakes team up next Tuesday in Vero Beach

Kristen Flateau made the last game on her home Rotary Park softball field memorable.

She and her Peniel Baptist Academy team made it a historic night.

Flateau finished 3-for-5 with a run and two RBI, and her last hit of the night wound up scoring the final run the Warriors needed to capture the 12-2 Region 1-2A championship in six innings over Jacksonville Christ’s Church Tuesday.

It is the first time in Peniel sports history a team won an FHSAA regional championship and advanced to a Final Four.

The Warriors (21-4) will face Region 3-2A champion Land O’Lakes Academy at The Lakes after the Wildcats defeated Naples Seacrest Country Day, 2-0, in the title game Tuesday night. That game will be at 10:35 a.m. Tuesday at the Jackie Robinson National Training Center (formerly Dodgertown) in Vero Beach.

When Peniel and Christ’s Church (13-9) played 13 days ago in the District 2-2A title game at Christ’s Church, the bottom of Peniel’s order went 2-for-11. This time that same quartet– Flateau, Lexi White, Dylana Lynn and No. 9 hitter Alyssa Wallace – went a combined 10-for-15 with seven runs scored and four RBI.

“I was a little bit frustrated after Thursday’s game (a 16-0 win over Tallahassee FAMU in which Flateau was 1-for-1),” said Flateau, the Warriors’ lone senior. “But I had a whole bunch of coaches come and reassure me. We had a three-hour practice on Saturday in which we hit, and the coaches did everything they could to prepare me.”

The Warriors set the tone with a six-run second inning, highlighted by a two-run single by winning pitcher Paige Bryan and a booming double by Flateau, whose ball one-hopped the left-center field fence.

“I have been in a slump lately,” Flateau said. “I’ve hit balls like that in practice, but never in a game. I got excited, but I’m not upset it didn’t go over (the fence) at all. I’m so proud of my team.”

The lead got to 8-0 by the fourth inning and it looked as if the Warriors may cruise to a 10-run mercy rule in 4 1/2 innings. But Bryan (16-4) ran into trouble in the fourth inning. Fighting the hip injury that has bothered her over the last month, the sophomore struggled through a 28-pitch fourth in which she threw half her pitches for balls, walking the first two batters. They came home when Madison Schnepel hit a sinking liner to right field that Sierra Edwards could not come up on a shoe-string attempt. The ball bounced by her and to the fence for a two-run triple.

“When she walked two batters, I knew something was wrong,” Flateau said. “She wasn’t that smiley Paige like normal. But I’m so proud of her for pushing through. I know she puts a lot of pressure on herself, but she knew she has a defense behind her.”

Bryan, the rock of the Warriors program since first pitching in seventh grade, had so much pain that she was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the fourth inning. When the Warriors came out to start the fifth, Bryan was one of the last players to come onto the field.

“I was hurting pretty badly,” said Bryan, who gave up two hits, walked three Eagles, struck out four and hit another batter. “It’s probably one of the worst pains I’ve ever felt out there pitching. I never felt this during a game. But I never really thought about coming out. I wanted to pitch the game and get it over with. I had to put more faith in my team. I really needed them to finish those innings.”

“Paige pushed through,” Peniel coach Jeff Hutchins said after winning his 60th career game in just three seasons. “She was hurting in the fourth. I went out there and asked her if she could push through and she said, ‘I could do it.’ And I told her she had her defense behind her.”

After struggling through the fourth, Bryan struggled to start the fifth when No. 9 hitter Jillian Platt walked to lead off. Destiny Clore then hit a soft liner that Bryan snagged, and inexplicably, Platt kept going to second as Bryan easily tossed to first baseman Lynn to finish the double play. Bryan ended the inning by getting Aubrey Nill to ground out to shortstop Alexis Wallace. In the sixth, she got a foulout from losing pitcher Jadelyn Server (7-9), a flyout from Celia Hollis and another groundout by Darci Sarver.

Up 11-2 in the bottom of the sixth, Abi Collier reached base when right fielder Schnepel dropped her flyball with two outs. Brooke Williams replaced her at first and on the first pitch she saw, Flateau lined a single to right field. Williams hustled to third and when Schnepel’s throw to the plate avoided catcher Hollis up the third-base line, Williams came home easily to finish out the 10-run mercy rule victory.

Peniel joined the 2006 Palatka High team as the only county softball squads to reach a Final Four.

“When we jumped on them in the second, (Christ’s Church) got down a little bit,” Hutchins said. “I told the girls, ‘Let’s just keep finding our pitch and hit it like in practice,’ and that’s what they did.”

The Warriors certainly did that.

They collected 16 hits with Alyssa Wallace going 3-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBI. Her sister Alexis was 2-for-2 with two runs scored and two RBI, while Summer Langston finished 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI. Lexi White was 2-for-4 with a run scored in the No. 7 spot in the order, while No. 8 hitter Lynn was 2-for-3 with three runs. Bryan and Rylee Romay added one hit each, each driving in two runs.

“The girls have worked hard for this all season,” Hutchins said. “I’m so proud of what they’ve accomplished and of course, they gave all the glory to God. It’s been a great season. We’ve set goals and we’ve reached them. And there’s more to go.”

“This is my last time playing on this field,” Flateau said. “That was the eye-opener ... and we went out like this. We won the regional finals and I couldn’t be happier than that.”

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