Four Clay High School senior softball players will miss graduation Friday night to travel to Pensacola to play in the Regional Championship against the West Florida Jaguars.
Clay High will be the second softball team in Clay County that did not get a schedule change for the Regional Championship. Oakleaf and Clay High were not able to reschedule their games. According to MaxPreps, Oakleaf softball is still scheduled to play against the Lake Brantley Patriots on the night of graduation. Teams from Middleburg and Keystone Heights moved their games to Thursday night.
Officials at Clay High tried their best to work out a schedule change with West Florida. However, according to head coach Matt Lewis, West Florida was unable to change the date and time of the game.
The game could not be moved to Thursday due to West Florida holding senior awards that night. They also tried to move the game to 10 a.m. Friday. However, the Escambia County School District would not allow West Florida to move the game due to testing. They could not move it to Saturday either because the FHSAA would not allow the game to be played a day later than the original schedule.
Lewis said it was tough to tell the girls that the game could not be moved. “We didn’t find out till after practice and had a good cry about it,” said Lewis. “I laid it out to them that it was a family decision, and I would back them 100 percent.”
Four of the five seniors on the roster will play in the game Friday night; Ema Martin, Sydney Davis, Gabby Wiseman, and Abby Rutledge. All four of the seniors will play softball at the next level. Martin will play softball for Agnes Scott College. Davis, Wiseman, and Rutledge will play softball for Florida State College at Jacksonville.
Senior catcher Sydney Davis said that it was sad that they would miss graduation, but felt that not many people have the opportunity that she has.
“Last night we kind of figured it was going to happen, and we were praying for it,” said Davis. “Not everybody gets that chance to play in a Regional Championship, but us four seniors felt that the team needed us.”
Clay High softball has had an unusual playoff run. After the district tournament, the FHSAA originally had Clay High outside of the regional playoff as the ninth seed. However, they had accidentally put Pedro Menendez as the district winner instead of Matanzas High School, according to Lewis. The mistake was fixed and put Clay High back in the playoff bracket as the eighth seed.
Clay High currently is on a two-game win streak with two dominant performances on the mound by Gabby Ellis. Davis is confident in her team's ability to win Friday night.
“As long as we keep our energy up and stay focused, we will be good,” said Davis.
Lewis said that he plans to have a separate graduation ceremony Sunday night for the four players that will miss graduation. He believes that multiple teachers and faculty members will show up to celebrate with the girls.