Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No. 1-Ranked Orange Park Wins 21st Straight; and the Raiders Appear to Be Hitting Their Stride in Time for District Tourney

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No. 1-Ranked Orange Park Wins 21st Straight; and the Raiders Appear to Be Hitting Their Stride in Time for District Tourney

Article excerpt

Byline: STEPHEN KINDLAND, Nassau Neighbors Sports editor

Kim Horan scored what proved to be the winning run on a double by Ryan Rogge in the fifth inning as the No. 1-ranked Orange Park High School softball team claimed its 21st straight victory, 3-2 over visiting Bartram Trail on Friday.

The win improved the Raiders -- ranked No. 1 among the state's Class 6A schools by the Florida Sports Writers Association -- to 21-1 on the year. It also was one of very few times Orange Park has had to come from behind with Rogge (19-1) on the mound.

"We definitely have been tested, but we're not going to lay down and die," said second-year Orange Park coach Amy Walker, who recently was named the Florida Athletic Coaches Association's District 5 Coach of the Year.

Walker also said she believes her team is "getting better each game," which can't be good news for Mandarin, Sandalwood or Gainesville Buchholz, three other teams that will face off in the District 1-6A tournament at Orange Park beginning Tuesday.

"We're trying to sew up loose ends and [play] smarter," she said. "Hopefully, we'll peak at the time the district tournament rolls around. We just want to take things one game at a time."

Walker said she is pleased to see her relatively young team evolve into a group of players who have become more aggressive and confident at the plate, especially with the absence of two starters. Sophomore first baseman Kaitlyn Taylor fractured her wrist on a slide several weeks ago, and junior Ashley Howard was involved in a car accident last week that left her sore and unable to play against Bartram.

Taylor could have her cast removed in time for the district tournament, and Howard is expected to return to the lineup even sooner, Walker said.

Meanwhile, Rogge continued showing why she was named the FACA's District 5 Player of the Year and nominated for the association's State Player of the Year. After giving up an unearned run in the fourth inning that gave Bartram a 1-0 lead, Rogge finished with nine strikeouts while giving up just three hits to pick up her 19th straight victory since losing 1-0 to West Nassau in an 18-inning marathon in the season-opener for both teams. …

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