An inexperienced Cypress Bay team reached the Class 8A regional final last season, yet fell short of its first trip to state since 2004.
One year later, the Lightning get another chance, led by junior Sarah Maloney’s one-hitter and two RBIs in a 5-0 victory over Western on Tuesday night in the regional semifinal.
“Today we got some big hits in big situations and sometimes in big games that’s the difference,” Cypress Bay coach Lonny Shapiro said. “Big players coming up with big hits or pitchers getting big strikeouts at times. We got both of those today.”
After the Wildcats (18-8) failed to drive in a runner from third with two outs in the top half of the first, the Lightning (19-5) responded with three runs in a two-out rally.
Though the first two batters – sophomore Lexi DiEmmanuele and freshman Maggie Scott – produced back-to-back singles off senior Katie Kalasunas, the former was caught stealing third.
Following a flyout to left, sophomore Olivia Gott walked, setting up runners at first and second for Maloney’s full-count RBI single to left. Freshman Nikki Rotman’s two-strike single to right off scored Gott and Maloney.
The Lightning tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the third on Maloney’s one-out RBI single to right and Gott’s steal of home, beating out a rundown.
Maloney, who retired 17 in a row before Kalasunas reached with no outs in the seventh on a wild pitch via a strikeout, allowed just a one-out single to Kalasunas in the first. She struck out 13 hitters, including four in the final frame.
“I think we’re a more talented team in some aspects and I think last year – none of us had gotten that far,” said Maloney, who has struck out double-digit batters in six straight games. “We know what it takes to get there and what it takes to get past it.”
WP: Sarah Maloney. LP: Katie Kalasunas
• Regional 4-5A semifinal — American Heritage-Plantation 10, Pompano Beach 0: Starter Jenna Goodrich (4-2) and Allysa Enrique combined to throw a two-hitter to lead the host Patriots in the state round of 16.
The game ended in the bottom of the sixth with Enrique hitting a two-out bases-loaded two-run double to complete a five-run, six-hit rally that put the 10-run mercy rule in effect.
Heritage (22-4) will face the winner of the Mariner-Lemon Bay game for the right to advance to the state Final Four.
Cleanup hitter Ashley Belans went 3 for 4 with three singles to lead the Patriots’ offense; Dakota Villella, Melissa Rini and Jessie Brown each got two hits against starter Danielle Conboy (10-7).
Pompano Beach ends its season at 13-8.
WP: Goodrich (4-2). LP: Conboy (10-7)