For three consecutive years, the Princeton Christian softball team had made it to the regional final.
For three consecutive years, it lost and missed out on a trip to states. But for the Panthers, the fourth time is the charm.
The Panthers can start making plans for Vero Beach after defeating Sheridan Hills Christian 12-6 in the Region 4-2A final.
It will be their first trip to the state tournament since 1997. A 16-year drought finally came to a close Monday afternoon.
“It’s been a great journey and everyone from our leadoff hitter to our last hitter did a little something,” Panthers coach Marcel Piz said. “I’m fired up and I can’t wait to get them up there.”
The Sharks’ comeback effort fell apart in the bottom of the fourth as Princeton Christian took advantage of two fourth-inning errors and scored six runs — all with two outs — to take a commanding seven-run lead.
Panthers pitcher Courtney Cox tossed a complete game and struck out five.
WP: Courtney Cox. LP: Kimberly Detolo.
• Region 4-7A final — St. Thomas Aquinas 7, West Boca 0: The first-inning run support gave St. Thomas Aquinas left-hander Meghan King an early cushion, and she only got stronger after that.
King struck out 11 batters and never allowed the ball out of the infield, finishing with a one-hitter on an infield single, lifting the Raiders to a convincing 7-0 victory over host West Boca in Monday’s regional final.
The Raiders (20-6) will face Harmony in the state semifinals at Vero Beach, reaching their first state final four game in 10 years.
“That means the world to me, making it to the state championships after so many years,” said King (10-4). “It’s great getting the run-support I got early on.”
St. Thomas wasted no time jumping all over West Boca right-hander Shaylyn Novy. Stephanie Sobolewski and Taylor Hishon hit back-to-back two-run singles for the four-run first inning.
The Raiders added three more runs in the seventh, with Sam Sharkey keying the attack with an RBI double and Sam Strun adding a run-scoring single.
WP: King (10-4). LP: Novy (8-5)
Booker T. Washington linebacker Matthew Thomas — one of the prized gems in Florida State’s highly-touted recruiting class in February — said Monday he is seeking a release from his scholarship so he can sign with Georgia or USC.
Thomas, the No. 1 recruit in Miami-Dade in 2013 and the nation’s No. 2 outside linebacker according to Rivals.com, said he informed FSU coach Jimbo Fisher and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt late last month that he is not planning on reporting to school in the fall and that he hopes the school will allow him to play elsewhere. But Thomas (6-3, 205) said FSU’s coaches do not want to release him and told him last week they’re planning on visiting him in South Florida to try and talk things over.
“I’ve told them it’s nothing personal. I just didn’t make the decision I really wanted to on Signing Day,” said Thomas, who picked the Seminoles over USC, Georgia and Miami.