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.
“What happened was on Signing Day [was] I wasn’t sure who I wanted to sign with. I had issues with different schools. But when I told my mom I didn’t want to sign with anybody and wait and give it a few days she said I couldn’t do that. She said, ‘FSU is a good school — pick them. It’s close to home.’ I wasn’t agreeing with it. But I felt like I was being disrespectful to her if I didn’t sign, so I made her happy.”
Thomas said his mother and father are now supporting him in his push to be freed from his signed letter of intent, but ultimately the power rests with Florida State’s staff.
“If I tried to go to a school in FSU’s conference I would have to sit out a couple years,” Thomas said. “But that’s not what I want to do.
“I’ve been in Miami all my life. Georgia needs linebackers. It’s a big program. I have family in Georgia. USC, growing up I never thought I would have an opportunity that big. I just want to go have fun and play football.”
• Region 4-7A quarterfinal — Nova 5, Northeast 2 (8): With the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the eighth Nova pinch-hitter Patrick Hubert laced a 2-2 pitch for a single to left field scoring two runs as the Titans scored three runs in the eighth to come away with the win over Northeast.
Nova (14-8) will play at St. Thomas Aquinas on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the regional semifinals.
Nick Marchese came away with the win pitching seven-plus strong innings for the Titans. Ralph Morel matched him inning for inning, but walked Gabe Valverde to open the eighth. He was pulled for Eduardo Uriante, who gave up a single and walk to load the bases. He struck out two to sandwich the hit and walk, before giving up the game-winning single to Hubert.
Nova scored a pair of runs in the fourth for a 2-0 lead, but Northeast (12-10) responded immediately with a pair of runs including one on a steal of home.
WP: Marchese (5-0). LP: Morel. SV: Barrows.
Region 4-8A semifinal: Sunset at Killian, 4
Region 4-8A semifinal: Hialeah at American,4
Region 3-8A semifinal: Douglas at Flanagan, 7
Region 4-6A semifinal at Westland Gardens Park: Archbishop McCarthy at Mater, 7
Region 4-5A semifinal: Jensen Beach at American Heritage, 7
Region 4-4A semifinal: La Salle at St. Brendan, 4:30
Region 4-4A semifinal: Coral Springs Charter at Monsignor Pace, 7
Region 4-3A semifinal: PJP II at CS Chr., 4
Region 4-3A semifinal: Westminster Christian at Florida Christian, 7
Region 4-2A semifinal at Florida Memorial: Westwood Christian at Brito, 4
Region 4-2A semifinal at Curtis Park: Zion Lutheran vs. Mater East, 4
State play-in: Gibbons at Cypress Bay, 7
State play-in: West Boca Raton at Douglas, 7
State play-in: Sunset at Coral Reef, 7
State play-in: Westland at Southwest, 7
State play-in: Chaminade at Mourning, 7