Matanzas' performance against perennial powerhouse Spruce Creek left no doubt that the Pirates are for real.
It’s been quite impressive watching the Matanzas Pirates play softball this year. I’ve had the chance to cover several of their games for the Palm Coast Observer, including a 10-0 run-rule in the season opener and a 12-6 beatdown of their crosstown rival, Flagler Palm Coast.
And each time I left the ballpark, I had a similar feeling: This team is good, no doubt, but how good?
Compared to the majority of their competition, they were great. But compared to the top teams in the region, in the state? Who knew?
Well, on the night of Monday, April 22, that question was answered when the Pirates, who had a 17-3 record at the time, faced potential Final Four-bound Spruce Creek, who were in the midst of a 16-game win streak.
For a brief moment, it looked like the Pirates were going to leave Daytona State College’s softball stadium with a victory. Pirates team captain Alyssia Paiz hammered a line drive deep into right field for an RBI triple to give Matanzas a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third.
“As soon as it made contact, I knew it was going to be good,” Paiz recalled after the game.
But the Hawks responded.
The Pirates’ freshman pitcher, Emma Wood, surrendered a single to the Hawks’ Kassi Clark, walked Hayley Lazo and then gave up scores on consecutive groundouts by Lexi Clark and Taylor Hartman.
Lazo cracked a triple into right center in the top of the seventh and scored on a wild pitch to give the Hawks a 3-1 lead.
The Pirates’ Ellie Hansen managed to get on base with a single, but Matanzas’ rally came up short with a ground out by Nikolena Perrine.
“We’ve been one step behind them all season,” Matanzas coach Sabrina Manhart said of Spruce Creek. “I think tonight, even though we didn’t win, showed that we can compete.”
For someone who is fueled by competition, it’s tough to believe in moral victories.
But as I watched the Pirates, whom many doubted entering Monday night’s game, come so very close to knocking off the area’s top squad, I couldn’t help but feel like they proved their worth.
Even in defeat.