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Softball: AHN’s perseverance pays off in 3A state semifinals

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For Academy of the Holy Names, this softball season has been inextricably tied to pain and loss. 

The players and coaches still struggle to hold back the memories from mid-March when Nick Petrarca, the father of Jaguars shortstop Rachael Petrarca and second baseman/rightfielder Camille Petrarca, died suddenly. 

The Academy of the Holy Names players — and the surrounding South Tampa softball community — rallied around Rachael and Camille . The initials of their father, NP, were displayed on the team’s batting helmets, along with a cross.

It also became the turning point for the Jaguars’ season. 

At the time, Academy of the Holy Names was 5-5. 

Then the Jaguars started winning. And winning.

In fact, Academy of the Holy Names had won 12 straight entering Wednesday’s Class 3A state semifinal game against Miami Westminster Christian. 

Rachael was the catalyst. In March, she hit a homer in her first at-bat against Orlando First Academy, days after her father passed. Rachael continued to produce, hitting safely in all but one game during the Jaguars’ current win streak.

That helped Academy of the Holy Names reach the state semifinals for the first time since 2017. 

Rachael, Camille — and their teammates — made sure they stayed around. 

The Jaguars scored in every inning to build their lead and cruised to an 11-4 victory. On Thursday, Academy of the Holy Names will face Windermere Prep  in the 3A final at 7 p.m. This is the first time the Jaguars have advanced to a title game. 

Rachel did their part in the semifinals with two hits, including a homer, and finished with two RBIs. 

She had plenty of help from her teammates. Genevieve Chiellini was 3-for-3 with three RBIs and two runs scored. Chase Cordoves, Camryn Feast and Keala Hollenkamp each had two hits. Cordoves doubled and Feast homered. 

In all, eight of the nine Academy of the Holy Names batters  in the lineup had at least one hit. 

The offensive support was more than enough for Belle Sardja, who emerged as the team’s ace during the postseason. She gave up eight hits and four earned runs.

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Football

Football: Friday night scoreboard

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Final Tampa Bay Tech 21, Wharton 12

Final St. Petersburg Catholic 47, Bishop McLaughlin 15

Final Gibbs 50, Gulf 21

Final Countryside 28, Sunlake 7\

Final Berkeley Prep 49, New Orleans Newman 24

Final Zephyrhills Christian 30, Bradenton Christian 7

Final Boca Ciega 28, Seminole 21

Final Lakeland Christian 38, Calvary Christian 13

Final Clearwater 48, Tarpon Springs 7

Final Clearwater Central Catholic 56, Kissimmee Gateway 0

Final Northeast 21, Hollins 20

Final Sumner 14, Braden River 10

Final Legacy Charter 21, Indian Rocks Christian 14

Final Mount Dora Christian 48, Keswick Christian 0

Final Seffner Christian 62, St. Joseph Academy 16

Final Zephyrhills 35, Nature Coast 0

Final Largo 25, Sickles 7

Final Osceola 48, St. Petersburg 9

Final Steinbrenner 35, Chamberlain 21

Final Carrollwood Day 42, Cambridge Christian 7

Final Tampa Catholic 38, Winter Haven 0

Final Land O’ Lakes 36, Pasco 0

Final Jesuit 44, Blake 0

Final Armwood 41, Wiregrass Ranch 11

Final Palmetto 23, Bloomingdale 3

4th Q Alonso 52, Robinson 17

Final Plant City 31, Plant 24

Final Wesley Chapel 44, Hudson 6

Final Newsome 55, Riverview 7

Final Pinellas Park 46, Palm Harbor University 0

Final Fivay 27, Freedom 25

Final Bradenton Manatee 29, East Bay 13

Final Dunedin 48, Anclote 22

Final Spoto 46, Brandon 0

Final Durant 49, Middleton 6

Final Cypress Creek 43, Weeki Wachee 0

Final Lennard 33, Jefferson 31

Final Gaither 48, Leto 7

Final McCallie (Tenn.) 47, Clearwater Academy 14

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The Hillsborough County Football Player of the Week

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LB/S Cole Highsmith, Jr., Plant City

After becoming a starter as a sophomore last season, Cole Highsmith took on a more prominent role as one of the leaders of Plant City’s defense. 

He took on that task by making play after play. 

This season, Highsmith has recorded 73 tackles and six sacks. Those totals already surpassed what he ended up with last year. 

Against Bloomingdale two weeks ago, Highsmith had 13 tackles, two sacks and an interception to lead the Raiders to victory. 

Fans paid attention. Highsmith received 50 percent of the votes (746) in the Hillsborough County football player of the week poll to beat out Wharton’s Daveon Crouch, who had 25 percent (376 votes). 

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Thursday night football forecast

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Seffner Christian (2-3) at St. Petersburg Catholic (3-3), 7

After starting 2-0, the visiting Crusaders have lost three straight. The host Barons, meanwhile, have rebounded from a 1-2 start to win two of their last three games. 

Putnam’s prediction: St. Petersburg Catholic 30-28

Gibbs (3-3) at Tarpon Springs (3-3), 7

An important Class 5A, District 10 game for both teams not only to stay in the mix for a title but also to get above .500 for the season. 

Putnam’s prediction: Gibbs 34-21 

Clearwater (5-1) at Anclote (1-5), 7:30

The Tornadoes have won five straight and are the clear favorite to the Class 5A, District 10 title. The host Sharks are on a two-game losing streak. 

Putnam’s prediction: Clearwater 42-7

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