VERO BEACH –— The never say die Sebring softball team staged a three-run rally in the sixth inning en route to a thrilling 3-1 win over Crystal River in Friday’s Class 6A State Championship game.
This was the first time in school history that Sebring has won a state softball championship. It was especially sweet for Blue Streak head coach Joe Sinness who is stepping down as coach.
“We kept our composure and didn’t hit the panic button,” said Coach Sinness. “In the end we put in the work and we are bringing home the big trophy. This is my last year coaching and this feels surreal and I’m not sure if it has hit me yet. I love it for the girls because they have put in a lot of time. My seniors and juniors have been with me and we took our beatings for a couple of years. All that experience has led us to where we are at right now. I couldn’t be more proud, no matter the outcome these girls did an amazing job. We took our doubters and proved them wrong.”
Sebring senior catcher Emily Bible played a key role in Sebring’s historic postseason run.
“Today’s game was very exciting and a real nail-biter,” said Bible. “It is pretty awesome to be a part of Sebring High School history and the first time winning state. As a senior this was my last game and it could not have ended in a better way. We came together and got things done. I am so proud of my team.”
Crystal River took the lead in the bottom of the third inning. Caliann Rogers bunted toward the third baseman for a single, Alyssa Hamilton had a sacrifice bunt to advance Rogers to second, and Rogers stole third and scored when the throw sailed high to make it 1-0.
Sebring rallied in the top of the sixth as Johneisha Rowe bunted for a base hit and Bible drilled the ball into left-centerfield for a double to plate Rowe to tie the game. Jade Sinness bunted Bible to third and Alyssa Perez stepped to the plate and hammered the ball into right field to score Bible. The Pirates tried to pick-off Perez but overthrew first and Perez took second on the error. Layla Taylor was intentionally walked. Kiara Delgado stepped to the plate with two outs and lined a single to right field driving home Perez to give the Blue Streaks a 3-1 lead.
That was more than enough offense for ace pitcher Maci Barnhart. The right-hander struck out 12 batters in a complete-game performance.
The Sebring defense was solid behind Barnhart and the last Crystal River batter was retired to seal the victory and the state championship for the Blue Streaks.
“It was intense especially at the beginning when we were down,” said Barnhart. “My girls didn’t give up and we proved we can fight until the end. I felt really good on the mound. I wasn’t sure how I would do after yesterday’s game but I felt so good. There are not enough words to describe the feeling of winning and I am just so proud of my team. We thought early on that we would go far but we didn’t’ think we would get this far but we did it!”
Sebring finished this remarkable season with an impressive 28-2 record which included five wins on the road in the state playoffs.
“I’m very excited we won,” said Layla Taylor. “We were going really hard this game and got the win. We didn’t give up after a hard loss to Lake Wales for the district championship and we fought back to win it all. I was a little nervous when we were down today but we pushed through and got the job done. I’m sad this was my last game as a senior and I wish it could go on forever. I am so excited that we won and it is amazing to be a part of school history.”
After switching fields, the Blue Streaks were cheered on as they entered to receive their medals. Sebring Athletic Directors Coach Jasone DeWitt and Coach Terry Quarles presented the Class 6A State Championship trophy to the team.
“I am proud to be a part of such an amazing team,” Jade Sinness said. “I am glad we were able to pull out the win and become state champions! It was the best feeling being able to walk out as a team and say we won the state championship. It is sad that this was my last game but I am so happy that we got to win.”
For coach Sinness, winning a championship in his last year made it even more special.
“All year long we have been putting in the work,” Coach Sinness said. “When we got here we told them ‘you have to put in the work one more day’ and they did it. I pulled them aside in the sixth inning and told them they still have work to do and they went to work. They got the runs we needed. Maci Barnhart did a phenomenal job and she has done that all year long. Whenever she is on the mound we have a chance because she is that good.”
Senior speedster Johneisha Rowe played a vital role in the Blue Streaks success.
“I am happy we came out and did our job and got the W,” Rowe said. “It felt great to win. It didn’t feel like the state championship game, I think we were all relaxed and did what we had to get the win. I think are the best to come out of Sebring High School. No one thought we would get this far and we proved them wrong. I am so happy that we did it and get to bring home the state championship. This was the best way to end my career at Sebring. It is very upsetting knowing this is my last game but I am happy we went out with a bang and we are bringing home the state championship!”