June 16, 2024


Automotive to Us

2022 FHSAA Northeast Florida regional finals, Thursday

Piper Young didn’t think it was gone. 

But the Baldwin senior watched the softball fly farther and farther, until suddenly she couldn’t see it anymore. And then…

“I honestly thought it was going to be a foul ball,” she said. “Halfway between first and second, I realized it, and I just blew up.”

Just over the top of the fence. Off the roof of the golf cart. Nothing but victory.

Baldwin players celebrate a go-ahead home run by Piper Young (24) against Keystone Heights in the Florida High School Athletic Association Region 1-3A softball final on May 19, 2022. [Clayton Freeman/Florida Times-Union]

Young’s go-ahead home run in a three-run fourth inning and clutch pitching in the final inning helped the magical season roll on for Baldwin, holding off a stubborn Keystone Heights 3-2 in Thursday night’s Florida High School Athletic Association Region 1-3A softball final before an exuberant home crowd.

The fireworks. The horn blasts. The fans ringing the field, and racing onto that field once shortstop Olivia Hartung caught the final out.

“It’s amazing,” Baldwin softball coach Jennifer Shields said. “I really can’t even describe it.”

Baldwin (26-2), ranked first in Region 1-3A, advances to its first-ever FHSAA state semifinal on Wednesday night at Legends Way Ball Fields in Clermont. They’ll learn their opponent once the FHSAA re-seeds the semifinalists based on the ranking system.

Baldwin's Piper Young hits the go-ahead home run in the fourth inning against Keystone Heights in Thursday's Region 1-3A softball final.

In her final home game, Young — who pitched her first game for the team as a sixth-grader in 2016 — delivered for Baldwin. She went the distance in the circle, allowing six hits, and pushed the hosts in front with her fourth inning two-run shot to left that dipped over the fence and inside the foul pole. Baldwin tacked on an insurance run shortly afterward, when a throwing error off Riley Page’s sacrifice bunt attempt scored Chloe Stepherson.