Thanks to its potent lineup, Coral Reef’s softball team has felt all season it can come back no matter how large the deficit.
The Barracudas’ confidence was justified Tuesday.
Christina Colli’s walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh inning scored Carsyn Gordon and helped Coral Reef secure a 6-5 comeback victory against Southwest in a GMAC semifinal at Palmetto Bay Park.
The Barracudas (20-2) advance to play district rival Palmetto (16-7) in the championship game Wednesday night at 6 p.m. at Palmetto Bay Park. Palmetto defeated American 6-5 in the other semifinal.
Colli’s game-winner came one at-bat after Gordon roped a two-run, game-tying double into the right-center field gap to erase Southwest’s 5-3 lead going into the seventh.
“It’s a special group that plays on different travel teams but have come together this season,” Coral Reef coach Dario Rodriguez said. “This was against a team that beat us in regionals last season so it was big for us.”
Southwest nearly added more runs in the top of the seventh loading the bases with no outs. Dayna Wilson relieved Michelle Mesa after one batter in the inning and helped the Barracudas get out of the jam by forcing a key double play and striking out the final batter of the inning.
Coral Reef trailed from the start as Southwest scored four runs in the first inning. But first baseman Michelle Ryan helped the Barracudas get back in it when she blasted a three-run home run to straight away center field to cut the deficit to one in the bottom of the fourth.
Coral Reef defeated Goleman 12-2 in five innings in the quarterfinal round Tuesday as its lineup hit well from the outset of the game.
The Barracudas lineup includes four batters hitting over .429 (Ryan, Kylan Becker, Gordon and Cassandra Garcia). Gordon went 4 for 6 combined for both games and Becker went 5 for 7.
“We have a real special group that all contributes from freshmen to seniors,” Rodriguez said. “[Ryan] has been struggling a little bit lately, but I had a feeling she’d come through.”
GMAC semifinal — Palmetto 6, American 5: After losing several key players from last year’s state runner-up team, it has taken some time for the Panthers to overcome their struggles.
Palmetto seems to be finding its rhythm at the right time.
Led by solid hitting from Gabby Spallone and Mia Bellinghieri, Palmetto jumped to an early 6-2 lead and held off American to advance to the final. Spallone went 2 for 4 with a two-run home run. Bellinghieri hit a bases-clearing triple in the second inning.
Palmetto (16-7) won its sixth in a row, including a recent 14-4 victory against rival Southwest. The Panthers have gotten strong pitching from freshman Amanda Guglietta (12-5), who picked up the victory. Sam Marquez also pitched three relief innings.
Palmetto is 0-2 this season against Coral Reef.
“We bounced back after we had a tough time at the SlamFest,” Palmetto coach Emilio Exposito said. “That Southwest win was a big momentum swing for us and it looks like we’re starting to gel now.”
GMAC semifinal – Coral Reef 6, Southwest 5
WP: Dayna Wilson (13-2). LP: Samantha Lanzas.
GMAC semifinal – Palmetto 6, American 5
WP: Amanda Guglietta (12-5).
GMAC quarterfinal – Coral Reef 12, Goleman 2 (5)
WP: Dayna Wilson (12-2). Top performers: Kylan Becker 3 for 3, 3 runs, RBI; Carsyn Gordon 2 for 2, SF, RBI; Sarah Ortiz 2 for 3, 3 RBI.
More GMAC quarterfinal scores: American 4, Coral Gables 3; Palmetto 18, Northwestern 0; Southwest 7, Hialeah Gardens 6.