High school softball ‘22: UC, Clay use dominant pitching to surge into state final four

Sophia Kardatzke carries UC; Gabrielle Ellis delivers gem for Clay

University Christian pitcher Sophia Kardatzke winds up for a pitch during Friday's Region 1-2A final against Trinity Christian. UC won 3-0. (Justin Barney, News4JAX)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – University Christian and Clay are going back to the high school softball state semifinals.

Sophia Kardatzke whiffed 13, drove in a run and scored another to lead UC to a 3-1 win over Trinity Christian in the Region 1-2A final on Friday night. UC (18-8) will play on Tuesday at Legend’s Way Ballfield in Clermont. Its opponent will be determined when the FHSAA reseeds the final four field.

UC and Clay, which beat West Florida 1-0 in 10 innings in the Region 1-4A final, join Fort White (Class 1A), Baldwin (3A) and Middleburg (5A) as area teams who have clinched final four berths in Clermont next week. Oakleaf (7A) will try and join them when it faces Lake Brantley on Saturday morning at 11.

UC and Trinity pushed up its start time to 5 p.m. to avoid incoming bad weather and then had to deal with a two-hour weather delay in the bottom of the sixth inning. UC got a single from Kardatzke in the first inning and then pushed two more across in the top of the sixth on a single by Kate Dell’Alba and then a sacrifice fly and a fielding error to allow Dell Alba to score to go in front 3-0.

Trinity couldn’t manage anything off Kardatzke, the hard-throwing sophomore who pushed the Christians to a state runner-up finish last year.

Kardatzke allowed just one hit, a single to Desrai Brown in the fifth inning, and kept Trinity’s offense under wraps. Macie Bourgholtzer had two hits for UC.

Region 1-4A

Clay’s seniors missed their high school graduation but didn’t miss out on a victory.

The Blue Devils continued their stunning run through the state playoffs, going on the road to beat West Florida 1-0 and earn a spot in the state final four for the third time in program history. Gabrielle Ellis was masterful in the circle and a McKinsey Bardroff triple in the top of the 10th pushed in Abigail Rutledge for the lone run.

This one was sweet.

With the school’s graduation being held Friday night and the host team unwilling to accommodate a time switch, Clay made the trip count and ended West Florida’s season.

Ellis struck out 11 and scattered five hits across the distance for Clay (17-11).

Rutledge, a senior, may not have gotten to walk across the stage with the rest of her senior classmates on Friday night but walked across home plate with a symbolic run.

Fittingly, it was scored by a senior.

The Blue Devils will play on Thursday at Legend’s Way Ballfield in Clermont. Their opponent will be determined when the FHSAA reseeds the final four field.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.