Softball | Plantation American Heritage

Patriots primed for title run after rough stretch

 

After losing three games to fellow state champions this season, American Heritage is ready to add another title to its collection.

If you go

What: The state softball finals.

When: Wednesday through Saturday.

Where: Vero Beach Sports Village, 3901 26th St., Vero Beach.

Admission: $9 per session; Parking: $5 for cars; $25 for buses.

Defending state champions – Class 8A: Plant City Durant; 7A: Tampa Chamberlain; 6A: Pembroke Pines Charter; 5A: Plantation American Heritage; 4A: Miami Gulliver Prep; 3A: Delray American Heritage; 2A: Boca Raton Grandview Prep; 1A: Mayo Lafayette.

Wednesday’s schedule – Class 1A semifinals: Chipley vs. Mayo Lafayette, 10:30 a.m.; Bristol Liberty County vs. Baldwin-Pierson Taylor winner, 11:30 a.m.; Class 3A semifinals: West Palm Beach Kings Academy vs. Gainesville P.K. Yonge-Jacksonville Bishop Snyder, 1; Delray American Heritage vs. Montverde Academy, 2; Class 5A semifinals: Lake Wales vs. Live Oak Suwanee, 4; Plantation American Heritage vs. St. Johns Creekside, 4:30; Class 7A semifinals: Tampa Freedom vs. Tallahassee Chiles, 7; Harmony vs. St. Thomas Aquinas-West Boca winner, 7.

Thursday’s schedule – Class 1A final: 11 a.m.; Class 3A final: 1:30; Class 5A final: 4:30; Class 7A final: 7.

Friday’s schedule – Class 2A semifinals: St. Petersburg Canterbury vs. Academy at the Lakes, 10:30 a.m.; Orlando Pine Castle Christian vs. Princeton Christian, 11:30 a.m.; Class 4A semifinals: Fort Myers Bishop Verot vs. Jacksonville Episcopal-Madison County, 1; Gulliver vs. Starke Bradford-Titusville Astronaut winner, 2; Class 6A semifinals: Bradenton Lakewood Ranch vs. Lake City Columbia, 4; Pembroke Pines Charter vs. Gainesville-Melbourne Eau Gallie winner, 4:30; Class 8A semifinals: Coral Reef vs. Orlando Timber Creek, 7; Cypress Bay vs. Jacksonville Mandarin-Winter Garden West Orange winner, 7.

Saturday’s schedule – Class 2A final: 11 a.m.; Class 4A final: 1:30; Class 6A final: 4:30; Class 8A final: 7.


Special to The Miami Herald

Every year American Heritage enters the season with the singular goal of reaching the FHSAA finals.

The five-time state champion program, which seeks to defend its title, will face Creekside at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Vero Beach Sports Village in the Class 5A state semifinal.

“If we don’t get to state we feel we’ve underachieved,” coach Marty Cooper said. “We want to at least get there and get a shot to win. Our whole season’s based on preparing for this playoff run. That’s why we schedule the teams we scheduled.”

Of Heritage’s 22 regular-season games, 11 came against opponents who played in last year’s regional finals.

It’s nothing new for the Patriots (23-4), who don’t shy away from the top competition in order to prepare for the state tournament.

After spring break, Heritage lost three games in a row to four-time state champion Palm Beach Gardens, two-time state champion Miami Westminster Christian and three-time defending state champion Miami Gulliver Prep.

“Right before spring break we were all on point,” sophomore pitcher Jenna Goodrich said. “That was definitely when we peaked, and I would say we’ve stayed consistent. After spring break we had a little rough patch, but we came back strong after that.”

Goodrich, who transferred from Archbishop McCarthy, posted a 14-2 record and 0.70 ERA entering the postseason. She has struck out 117 batters, following in the cleats of Aimee Chapdelaine’s departure.

Chapdelaine went on to play at the University of Virginia. During her senior year in 2012, she fanned 198 hitters.

Freshman Madison Canby contributed a 9-2 record and 1.20 ERA with 56 strikeouts. Senior Alyssa Enrique returned from an injury in April to provide additional pitching relief.

“I think with Alyssa back we’re almost unstoppable with our pitching staff,” Goodrich said.

Senior catcher Sarah Angulo, one of five starters from last year’s team, agrees.

“Our pitching this year’s really good,” said Angulo, who has a perfect fielding percentage. “People thought we would be underdogs because Aimee graduated, but Jenna came in and stepped up and Maddie too, and Alyssa’s back better than ever. Behind the plate they just make the job so much easier for me.”

Heritage has outscored its three regional opponents 20-1 with a dynamic combination of pitching and timely hitting.

Of late, freshman outfielder Melissa Rini has stepped up. Cooper said every girl has taken a turn in contributing over the course of the season.

In 2010 and 2011, Heritage fell short of its goal of reaching state. Mother Nature didn’t make things easy for the team last year upon its return.

A rainout forced the Patriots to win a pair of games in one day en route to the title — the program’s first since 2009.

“I was part of the team losing regional finals two years in a row, and it was really tough for us,” Angulo said. “Last year we wanted it even more. This year we’re back and want it even more to defend our title. We’re really excited and look forward to state this year.”

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