The screams of “state, state, state” could be heard around the Cypress Bay softball field as the rain came down on Friday night.
The Lighting players, a group that had spent an entire year living with a brutal extra-inning loss to Jupiter in last year’s regional final, had just put the finishing touches on a 5-1 victory over Wellington Palm Beach Central in a region 3-8A final. And with that, Cypress Bay is headed back to the state final four for only the second time in program history and first since the Lightning advanced to the title game in 2004.
Cypress Bay will take on Jacksonville Mandarin or Winter Garden West Orange on Friday, May 10 in a Class 8A state semifinal at the Vero Beach Sports Village.
“I think having gone through what we went through last year up in Jupiter really paid dividends tonight,” said Cypress Bay coach Lonny Shapiro, who was a rookie coach back in 2004 when he took that team to state. “You could tell by the way we came out here and played tonight that we were more relaxed and prepared to play. Getting off to a fast start was also huge.”
Cypress Bay’s four-run first inning saw the Lightning jump all over Central starter Amanda Blanchard. Sarah Maloney and Shannon McMullen had RBI singles in the rally.
Maloney, just a junior who came in with 49 postseason strikeouts, took it from there, giving up just three hits and striking out six.
Lightning players sprinted to the mound and mobbed their pitcher when the final out was recorded.
“I think that loss to Jupiter really helped strengthen us as a team and really helped keep us focused all season long,” Maloney said. “There were plenty of ups and downs along the way but that just made us even more determined to find a way to make it to state and now we did it, and it’s a great feeling.”
WP: S. Maloney (12-3). LP: A. Blanchard. Top performers: M. Scott 3-3. S. Maloney 1-3, RBI. M. Wideman 1-2, RBI.
• Region 4-2A semifinal — Sheridan Hills Christian 18, Zion Lutheran 5 (5): When Sheridan Hills Christian plays Princeton Christian on Monday with a trip to state on the line, it will have faced the same regional opponents as last season when the program reached its first FHSAA Finals.
In a game twice postponed during the week because of inclement weather, the Sharks cruised past Zion Lutheran 18-5 in five innings.
“Last year we felt very pressured because three of our biggest players were seniors and we wanted to get them where they wanted to go,” said eighth-grade catcher Grasy Gomez, who went 3-for-4 with seven RBI. “This year it’s been more relaxed.”
Continued a day later in the top of the second inning with the Sharks (7-17) leading 6-5, they posted an 11-run third powered by Gomez’s first-pitch, two-out grand slam.
Eighth grader Kim Detullo pitched four scoreless innings — scattering four hits and striking out four — for the win.
Senior Hannah Coelho produced a two-run single down the third-base line with the bases loaded for the Lions (11-11) in the first.
A second consecutive state appearance would be credited to Sheridan Hills’ experience, which helped build confidence.
Earlier in the season, head coach Chad Martin and his team traveled to Tallahassee to compete in the Lady T-wolves North Florida Classic against Class 7A-8A teams.
“They’ve really come together,” Martin said. “The schedule they’ve played has been really, really difficult. I’ve told them to play loose and have a good time. You never know what might happen.”
CHRISTINA DE NICOLA
WP: Kim Detullo. LP: Brianna Lett.
• Region 4-6A semifinal — Pines Charter 10, Mater Academy 0 (5): The defending 6A state champion Jaguars (19-3) put up six runs in the fourth to beat the Lions (17-8).
The game was originally scheduled to be played Tuesday but was postponed three times due to heavy rainfall. Pines Charter will host Naples in the Region 4-6A final 7 p.m. Saturday.
Pines Charter scored on its second at-bat on a two-run home run by freshman pitcher Claire Blount. The Jaguars scored again in the third inning on a two-run double by Camilla Lopez.
Four of the runs came on a grand-slam by Courtney Dart.
WP: C. Blount (15-3). LP: Alexis Castroman (6-3). Top performers: C. Blount 3-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 singles, 4 K. C. Dart 1-3, HR, 4 RBI, BB. L. Fishbach 2-3, RBI, triple.