Alexis Ortiz rounded third base, dipped low and rolled toward home and her waiting teammates in what would be the deciding blow in the Battery Creek High School softball team’s biggest victory.
The celebratory routine was common during a milestone season but never marked a grander moment.
The Dolphins won the school’s first state softball championship Wednesday, defeating Union County 2-1 to sweep the best-of-three series for the Class 3A title in front of a game crowd in Beaufort.
The Yellow Jackets brought the pedigree, making their sixth consecutive appearance in the championship series and winning four titles — including the past two 4A championships.
But Battery Creek (22-8-1) powered to the championship with two home runs in the fourth inning, including the go-ahead solo blast from Ortiz, the senior pitcher. Her big hit came with a full count after Emily Crosby had tied the game with a solo shot two batters earlier.
Ortiz was familiar with the celebratory tunnel her teammates formed to welcome her at home plate — it was her 10th home run of the season.
“I was just looking for my pitch, and I found it,” Ortiz said. “It happened to be right over the plate.”
The Dolphins outlasted Union County senior pitcher Bailey Betenbaugh, who struck out eight and will play at the University of South Carolina.
Crosby said she knew Betenbaugh liked to follow her fastball with a changeup, so Crosby waited for the off-speed pitch with two strikes in the fourth inning and drove the ball over the left field fence.
“At the first of the season we played a lot of tough teams, and that really prepared us for tonight,” Crosby said.
Entering the championship series, the Dolphins had only allowed two runs in the playoffs. Ortiz helped them also control the deciding series.
They won the opener 2-1 at Union County on Monday, with Ortiz striking out eight. She struck out nine in another complete game victory Wednesday, retiring the side in order in the seventh to set off the celebration at home.
Ortiz, who signed to play at Coker College, allowed just one hit. Yellow Jackets cleanup batter Kristin Kicidis hit the first pitch of the second inning inside the left field foul pole for a home run and a 1-0 Union County lead.
Union County coach Tommy Petty credited the pitching by Ortiz but said he was still miffed by the Yellow Jackets scoring two total runs during the series. He and his other coaches spoke to their team in shallow right field long after the final out was recorded.
“We’ve always been a hitting team,” Petty said. “To score one run, that’s not what I expected.”
In the infield, Battery Creek players emptied a Gatorade cooler on the head of second-year coach Chris Carr as he began a television interview. They posed with their trophy, received championship medals and pulled on new T-shirts recognizing them as state champions.
Carr credited his senior leads for the program’s rise.
“Not only are they great players, but they set the tone from my first day here that that’s what they wanted to accomplish,” Carr said. “They’ve done wonderful things. It’s going to be such a great tone for future teams that are coming through.”